Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Movie Review: Unleashed

'Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you always do evil.' (Je 13:23, NLT) With these words Jeremiah tells us that there are some things that just cannot be changed, particularly when it comes to human nature. Louis Leterrier's movie Unleashed tackles this issue head-on with a combination martial arts movie and sensitive drama. Danny (Jet Li) has, since a young boy, been kept in a cage by his master (Bob Hoskins) who has trained him to become a fighting machine to protect his master while he goes about his criminal activities. Danny has been treated like a dog -- given food and water, one set of clothing, and a roof over his head (a cage below the floor). He wears a collar around his neck and has been conditioned to attack ferociously whenever it is removed and his master gives him the command to kill. Danny has been so mistreated that all positive emotions have been eradicated and he feels no fear, no joy, no love. One day, however, circumstances bring him into contact with a blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman) who touches him tenderly for the first time in his life that he can remember. Danny escapes from his master and is cared for by the blind piano tuner and the 18-year old Victoria (Kerry Condon). But Danny's master finds him again and Danny has to return to his former ways in order to escape it forever. The movie swings between brilliantly choreographed martial arts and gently sensitive drama. Bob Hoskins is potent as Danny's master and Morgan Freeman is excellent in his role as the blind piano tuner. Jet Li is okay as Danny but isn't quite convincing in his role. The intense high-level violence in this movie is contrasted with the redemptive power of gentle love that sees value in the lowest of the low. There are some elements in the movie that strain belief. For example, Danny's change from an "animal" to a warm, gentle person seems too quick. But if you are willing to suspend belief and you can put up with the incredible levels of violence then this movie provides a contemporary redemption story where love and family win over violence and evil. Ultimately, it shows that, given the right circumstances and the right saviour, even the leopard can change its spots. My Rating: **** (out of 5) Positive Review 'Bounding out of the gate like a greyhound, Unleashed needs only its first 30 seconds or so to elevate itself well above the average action potboiler.' - Gregory Kirschling/Entertainment Weekly Negative Review 'Cloying dreck.' - Benjamin Strong/Village Voice Content Warning strong violent content, language and some sexuality/nudity

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