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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

photo caption:
JET UNLEASHED: Jet Li doing what he does best in "Unleashed," which takes place not in Hong Kong but Glasgow, and is directed by Louis Leterrier, from a screenplay by Luc Besson.end caption.

Unleashed: Morgan Freeman and Jet Li Make Strange Bedfellows in Messy Misadventure

Review by Kam Williams

When you put Morgan Freeman and Jet Li in the same movie, something's gotta give, given that these actors are generally cast as incompatible types of characters indicative of completely different genres. Typically, Morgan plays that melancholy, wise-beyond-his-years, old soul we've seen in such cerebral productions as Million Dollar Baby and Driving Miss Daisy. Jet, on the other hand, has let his fists and feet do the talking in an unending string of relatively superficial, martial arts flicks like Kiss of the Dragon, Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave.

Thus, the burning question about Unleashed, their current collaboration, was whether the picture would be an introspective mood piece or a high-octane affair chock-full of gratuitous gore. The answer is that the end result was an unsatisfying compromise which features elements of both, though the film trades far more frequently in fight sequences than in tender Kodak moments.

This is easy to understand when one considers that the movie was written by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) and directed by Louis Leterrier (The Transporter), purveyors of a very violent brand of cinema. Thus, Unleashed's incessant bloodletting and high attrition-rate prevents the audience from taking its sensitive side seriously.

The story is set in present-day Glasgow, Scotland, where, somehow, no one ever informed a sadistic loan shark named Bart (Bob Hoskins) that the days of slavery ended eons ago. For he is the malevolent master of Danny (Li), a never-civilized attack human raised in a cage and trained to kill whenever he's let off his electronic leash. Bart uses his lethal human weapon both as a bodyguard and as an unbeatable entrant in fight-to-the-death contests staged in illegal, after-hours joints.

Danny, stolen as a child, was told that he had been abandoned by his mother a prostitute. But then, what explains the mystical spell he falls under the lucky day he hears Sam (Freeman) playing Mozart's Sonata #7? With the help of his 18 year-old step-daughter, Victoria (Kerry Condon), Sam, a blind, widowed, piano repairman with a heart of gold, decides to take-in the abused savage and to make him his next reclamation project.

Although this plotline might resemble that of a makeover movie, remember, it actually unfolds more like a Hong Kong chopsocky than My Fair Lady. Courtesy of some woefully-choreographed stunts, wave after wave of goons get smoked by Denny while he learns to appreciate classical music on his path to freedom, redemption and his roots.

A most improbable, artless, ham-fisted, and irritating excuse to glorify senseless slaughter.

Fair (one star) Rating: R for profanity, sexuality, nudity, and graphic, gratuitous and gruesome violence. Running time: 103 minutes. Studio: Rogue Pictures.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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