Unleashed (2005) - Unrated Widescreen Edition

Genre(s): Crime / Drama / Thriller
Universal || Unrated - 102 minutes - $19.98 || October 11, 2005
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-09-20


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer(s): Luc Besson (written by)
Cast: Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon


Theatrical Release Date: May 13, 2005


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Extended (Branching) Version of the Film
  • Director Louis Letterier: Unleashed
  • Serve No Master - Featurette
  • Collar Comes Off - Featurette
  • Massive Attack Music Video
  • RZA Music Video


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Movies like Crash and Batman Begins are two of my favorites for 2005, Unleashed has to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. Based on the trailers, I thought the film's plot was too dumb and the style too dark so I decided to pass. Wished I knew then what I know now...

Unleashed is a stylized drama-martial arts flick from director Louis Leterrier and writer Luc Besson, the writing/directing team behind the disappointing Transporter -- a film which starts out with a great car chase and slowly dissolves a muddled plot -- and its recent sequel, Transporter 2. Leterrier brings about a gritty and dark look that at times could turn off a viewer, but in this case it helps in covering for a plot which (when talking about outloud) sounds absolutely dumb (think about a man who has been trained since childhood to kill, but only when his collar is taken off...). But, because ironically because of this dark realism of London that Leterrier presents, it distracts from some of the more absurd plot-points.

Speaking of the plot, Unleashed is about Danny (Li; Lethal Weapon 4), a man who has been raised in captivity by underground London mobster Bart (Hoskins; Beyond the Sea). Bart uses Danny has his human pitbull, a human killing machine who is *unleashed* upon those who refuse to pay up. In the opening, we find Bart and Danny in a dark and dank room (such as in many mob movies where a beat down will take place), when Bart removes the collar, Danny takes down three, four, five people at a time.

When Bart is severely injured in a car crash, Danny makes his escape and finds refuge with a piano-tuning blind man, Sam (Freeman; Glory), and his step-daughter, Victoria (Condon; Ned Kelly). With the two, Danny learns about having a family and begins to think about his own family, in particular, his mother whom he has little memory of.

However, one cannot discount the cast which also plays its part in making Unleashed such a unique movie. Outside of some his martial arts/stunts, I've never been much of a Jet Li fan. I enjoyed Kiss of the Dragon because I considered it to be mindless entertainment, not really because of Li, though. The difference between Li in Dragon and his performance in Unleashed is because his character -- alongside the always magnificent Morgan Freeman (who has been having a great couple years with Million Dollar Baby, Batman Begins and An Unfinished Life) -- is he's charming and even charsimatic in a way.

The film also has the feel of a classic martial arts film with some dramatic elements added in. The fight scenes are hard-core and besides some of the usual cliches (Li fighting several men who hover around waiting for their "turn"), but the action scenes are fun and exciting enough to make it all work.

Having never seen the theatrical version, I can't help you on what's new and what's not, but based upon what I've read on the Net, apparently there are a few things that are different. In the UK (where the film is called Danny the Dog), they had cut out some of the dramatic moments with focus on the martial arts, here in the US, those scenes were included in the theatrical version. Now, on the unrated version, apart from a few minor elements, the films are apparently the same. The one item I can speak of, the ending is slightly different. !!!SPOILERS!!! The original ending had the camera panning into the piano (via CGI), but in the "new" one (seen only in the UK), it simply ends with a close-up on Li's emotion-filled face. No biggie, but some have preferred it this way than the other. !!!END SPOILERS!!!

Also, on this disc is an "extended" version of the film with (based on my count) three branching extended fight scenes. Having just watched the unrated one the other night, I didn't find anything that was really new. In all, the "new" stuff maybe adds a minute or so... If you haven't seen the movie before (or even if you have), I found the "extended" version was a waste of time. When these movies use branching, there's a big pause during the movie and then it takes you to an unedited (or slightly so), raw fight footage with no sound effects and the vocals are poor. There's just no need to watch it (though I wish Rogue/Universal would allow us to view these extended scenes individually.

All in all, Unleashed has to be one of the suprising films of 2005 and hopefully will find an audience on DVD.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Although the movie was quite good, I felt the DVD features weren't quite up to snuff. I'm not saying what is there is bad really, just I expected more.

First is Director Louis Leterrier: Unleashed which is a five minute interview with the director. Fairly basic stuff here as Leterrier talking about how he wanted to approach the project with the gritty nature of the underworld. There's a little talk about his partnership with Luc Besson who gave him his directorial chance with The Transporter and also about his youth and being a younger director. Average but guess it's alright enough in place of a commentary track.

Serve No Master is a 10 minute featurette covering the martial arts and stuntwork in the film. Compared to other films which goes through the process and training for some of these scenes, this falls short from being interesting. If you're just a casual viewer, this is quick enough to give the idea and work it takes, for the enthusists out there, The Matrix movies had better featturettes (to be fair, though, Matrix made 10 times at the domestic box office).

The Collar Comes Off is a basic behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews with the cast and crew as they give each other compliments. Morgan Freeman is probably the best of the bunch -- not to say the others are ingenuous -- as he expresses some maybe actual admiration for the others. As usual, the featurette also has footage from the movie intertwined with the interviews.

The DVD has two music videos from "Massive Attack" and "The RZA". The former is quite short (under two minutes) and both primarily just who footage from the movie. I liked both of the songs, but this is fluff material.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

As with Assault on Precinct 13 and Seed of Chucky, Rogue Pictures provides both the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and hard-hitting DTS 5.1 surround sound. Each kick, knuckles contacting walls, and bad-ass martial arts laden fight comes across great on both the DTS and Dolby tracks. The dialogue is also great with alot of it coming through the center speaker and surrounding sounds through the other 4 speakers.

As for the picture, Leterrier's grim vision of England which is grainy, grimy and just downright dirty, looks just the way it was intended. The only "flaw" comes in a scene or two where the left side of the picture is cut off a little. Don't know if this standard, but I never noticed this on other DVDs. This could go along with their statement at the beginning which says: "This film has been modified from its original version to include additional material not in the original release". So, I can't fault it too badly as the movie itself looks fine.



.::OVERALL::.

The Unleashed DVD is good, and although I would hope for more special features, I understand why there wasn't much on here as the film wasn't very successful pulling in only $22m. But since the film is so good, the DVD is worth the money, which is saying something as I normally stay away from buying DVDs that have a darker tone to them (which this certainly does). In the end, if you can find the DVD on sale (you can probably nab it for $13.99 or so on the opening week), go ahead and pick it up.