The publicity for this film claimed that Jet Li's fight scenes were "so intense that test audiences were leaping out of their seats". Well, I didn't find it to be that way. Danny The Dog (I simply refuse to call it Unleashed) works best as a character drama, with only a few silly fight scenes in between.

Writer Luc Besson gave Li a choice of either doing a sequel to Kiss Of The Dragon, or something a bit more serious. He opted for serious and Besson wrote the script exclusively for him. With the director of The Transporter giving the orders, one would expect it to really kick ass. Instead, it merely smacks bum.

Danny is an orphaned boy taken in by mob boss Bart (Bob Hoskins in a role that Albert Finney, Michael Caine and Brain Cox turned down) and forced to be a guard dog, who eats raw food out of cans and is kept in a dank cellar with his favourite teddy bear. Danny is somehow trained in the deadly arts and will massacre everyone threatening his master in the blink of an eye if his steel collar is removed.

When Bart is shot in a gangland assassination attempt, Li wanders the streets until he is taken in by blind piano tuner Sam (Morgan Freeman, in one of his most surprising choice of characters) and his stepdaughter Victoria (the oh-so-cute Kerry Condon). While they bond as a somewhat dysfunctional family, Danny learns, through music, what it's like to be human and have real feelings and emotions. But when Bart returns and wants his dog back (why doesn't he just get a real dog?), a bloodbath is threatened. What we get is a bloody nose and that's about it.

The film has a very dank and miserable feel to it. So it's only appropriate that it should be set in the most depressing city in the world (that would be Glasgow; it chills me to even say the name). A lot of audiences have been puzzled and critical that everyone in the film is either American, or English, but if you've ever heard a Glaswegian accent you'll understand why the filmmakers were keen to avoid it. Of this, I will say no more.

It sounds far-fetched, but it's actually very well acted, especially by Li, who, as an Asian actor with English as a second language, proves he's way more than a Hong Kong Phooey. Where the film fails is in the very silly and often totally unconvincing fight scenes - "leaping out of their seats" my reptilian ass!

These have to be the tamest punch-ups that Cory Yuen has ever staged. Kiss Of The Dragon and even the PG-13 rated The Transporter have much better action than this. And why the film is rated 18 I'll never ever know. Since hardly anyone dies and there's barely a drop of blood to be had, the certificate is completely undeserved and only helps promise something that the film ultimately doesn't deliver.

In no way is this a bad film, just a bit tame from what we have come to expect from Besson and co.

Reviewed on: 19 Nov 2005
Share this with others on...
Unleashed packshot
A Jet Li martial arts extravaganza, with sensitive side issues and Bob Hoskins in bully mode.
Amazon link

Read more Unleashed reviews:

Nick Jones ****
Iain Macleod **
Anton Bitel *1/2

Director: Louis Leterrier

Writer: Luc Besson

Starring: Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon, Vincent Regan, Dylan Brown, Tamer Hassan, Michael Jenn, Phyllida Law, Carole Ann Wilson, Michael Ian Lambert, Jaclyn Lee

Year: 2004

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France/UK/US


Search database: