A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Unleashed

August 24, 2010

Unleashed

It’s a Tuesday today, which means that we needed a shorter movie if we were to review it before the day was out. Amanda was in the mood for an action movie, preferably one she hadn’t seen yet. So we settled on Uleashed (A.K.A. Danny the Dog.) As I was putting it into the DVD player Amanda asked me if this was likely to be a movie she’d have to pay close attention to. I told her that it wasn’t likely to be.

I figured that this was a movie that could be summed up in about three sentences. “Danny is a killing machine raised by an English mobster to kill anybody on command. Eventually he is freed by circumstances from his life of violence and taken in by a kindly blind piano tuner and his daughter. Eventually his new life must collide with his old.” It’s not exactly deep or new in any way. But even so, it is a cool movie and one I’m glad I have in my collection.

For one thing this movie came out at a time when the name Yuen Woo-Ping was just beginning to resonate on this side of the world. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had won a bunch of Oscars, and his distinctive work had been featured in the Matrix and Kill Bill movies. Nobody knows better than he how to choreograph an impressive fight scene. And choreograph is definately the correct word, because the fights in a Wo-Ping movie are intricate dances, always with distinctive movements and intricate design. (For the Jackie Chan fan in me he’s always been the fight choreographer for Drunken Master.) So his name alone in the credits is enough to assure you that a fun movie lies ahead.

Add to that some really big names. Jet Li plays Danny. He gets not only to fight against crazy odds and do all kinds of cool stunts, but do it with this hang-dog look of bewilderment. Danny has known nothing but death and destruction and has almost no human feeling left in him. When he’s wearing his collar he shambles about completely disconnected and only comes to life when his master removes the collar and commands him to kill. It’s fun to see Danny as he emerges from this world and starts to discover what happiness can be, and what has been missing from his life.

The two opposing forces in Danny’s life are represented by Bob Hoskins as “Uncle Bart” the nefarious and thoroughly loathsome gangster who made Danny what he is and Morgan Freeman as Sam, the man who takes Danny in and gives him a new life. Both take their roles to the kind of extreme that only seasoned actors can without quite descending into caricature. Hoskins is wonderfully evil. His character is full of angry bluster and clearly out of his depth much of the time. And Freeman takes a role which is basically an extension of the kindly blind hermit from Bride of Frankenstein and manages to almost make him seem plausible. Almost.

If this movie has a flaw in my mind it is that the bright new life that Danny stumbles upon is so blissfully and completely perfect. There’s Sam and his daughter Victoria. They take in the wounded and clearly mentally unhinged Danny without ever a second thought. Sam is a font of well meaning home-spun advice and gentle encouragement. He teaches Danny how to shop for fresh produce and how to cook. And Victoria gives Danny lessons on how to play the piano. Neither of them ever pressure Danny as to why he was stumbling about with a gunshot wound, no social skills, and a strange collar on. It’s like two kindly people taking in Leatherface when they find him dying in the street and providing him with nothing but love and affection. It lends a slightly dreamlike quality to the whole movie.

As I wrote this review I noted that the movie was written by Luc Besson and it was as though a light had gone off in my head. “Of course!” This is like a kinder and gentler version of Leon. It has that Luc Besson trope of a unique individual who suddenly finds a reason to live and then has to face impossible odds to keep the new life they’ve found for themselves.

So if you had a movie written by Luc Besson, choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping, and starring Jet Li, Bob Hoskins and Morgan Freeman… well there’s nothing else it could be but this. A simple but fun to watch tale of a man facing impossible odds to gain a new life for himself. It’s not a movie that requires a lot of attention, but it’s a movie that you find you WANT to pay attention to. It’s gritty but light. A simple and enjoyable way to spend a Tuesday evening.

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August 24, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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