Unleashed

As Danny, an orphan raised as an attack dog by a Scottish loan shark he calls Uncle Bart (a glowering Bob Hoskins), Jet Li lets fly with his fists and feet of fury. Which is all to the good. It's the sentimental story that screenwriter Luc Besson sandwiches in between fights that induces a gag reflex. Danny escapes his cage and takes refuge with kindly Sam (Morgan Freeman, way too classy for this stuff), a blind piano tuner from New York who has moved to Glasgow so his teen stepdaughter Victoria (Kerry Condon) can study music at the Glasgow conservatory. Victoria, still in braces, teaches Danny about the wonders of ice cream and making out (the fact that Jet Li is forty-two adds to the ick factor). Director Louis Leterrier wisely gets Li back in the game for a series of lucrative battles, staged by The Matrix master Yuen Wo Ping, that pit Danny the dog against steroidal goons in chain mail who must fight to the death. Now we're talking. Li is action poetry in motion. Damn them for spoiling our popcorn fun with salty tear-jerking.

From The Archives Issue 375: August 5, 1982