Modern day, London. The setting for the 2005 ‘Unleashed’ written by Luc Besson and directed by Louis Leterrier.
Cockney gangster and loan shark Bart (Bob Hoskins) is out collecting debts, and with him has his trusted ‘dog’.
Now when we say dog, what we mean is Danny (Jet Li) that has raised since he was a boy. Not only has he raised him, but he has raised him to be a martial art wielding killing machine, but only when the metal collar that sits around his neck is removed. When the collar is on, Danny is the quiet subordinate that Bart wants.
Danny sleeps in a cage, wears rags and doesn’t complain. When Bart needs it, the collar comes off and Danny goes into a wild frenzy of violence.
All is well with Bart’s world until Danny begins to get other ideas, culminating in him missing a cue to help Bart out. Later that day however, it worsens when they car is attacked leaving Danny on the run.
He is taken in by Sam (Morgan Freeman) and his step daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon) and begins to get an increasing taste for freedom, however operating with the risk of the life that he left behind one day catching up with him.
There are some odd bits about this film. Firstly though, its strengths…
Number one, I loved Bob Hoskins in this. Its not that he can’t play other roles, but he eats up the cockney villain and is the absolute star of the film. It served as a reminder of the character that left us in 2014, and I believe still had some great roles in him when he passed away at the age of 71.
Secondly, from Jet Li’s perspective, the role of Danny gave him a lot to work with in terms of emotional range and the duality through the collar is an interesting idea to see him switching between.
Thirdly, the choreography of the fights is excellent with the frenzied style from the ‘unleashing’ coming across in the scenes and a range of situations through the film serving up lots of variety in the sequences.
On the less positive side, firstly I was (very unusually) disappointed with Morgan Freeman. It was an odd situation for him as an actor of his calibre would normally make more of a role of a blind character, but that opportunity seemed sidelined throughout. It was almost a case of ‘you’re blind but don’t make too much of it’ so he kind of acts a bit like normal in it throwing himself straight onto of Li at one point.
Secondly, there (I think) was meant to be some chemistry between Danny and Victoria. The problem here was that by my maths, in the making of it, Jet Li was around 42 and Condon was 22. And it shows. Its a bit odd and awkward and stands out in the film.
Its not too bad, and is an enjoyable hour and 40 if you don’t focus too much on it, but its far from any of the cast member’s best work (also true of Besson and Leterrier as well).
Unleashed is currently available on streaming services.