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Unleashed, a rambly review

On Sunday the OH and I had planned to go to the theater to watch a mindless action flick (xXx: State of the Union if you must know). But he discovered that Unleashed was also playing, and since we are fans of Jet Li and Luc Besson (the writer/producer), we went to that instead.



I liked the movie a lot, although we agreed it wasn't as good as our favorite Luc Besson movies, La Femme Nikita and The Professional. Jet Li turns in a really good performance—of course a good martial arts performance from him goes without saying, but he did some fairly subtle acting as well. Luc Besson films often have impressive performances from actors who show less of a range in other films. (For example, The Professional co-stars Natalie Portman, whose performance in that film is a lot better than her performances as Padme Amidala in the Star Wars films.)

My first thought on leaving the theater was: "I'm worried this movie won't do well, because it's a hybrid between a martial arts action / gangster flick and a 'chick flick'[1], and I think the martial arts action gangster fans won't like the chick flick parts and the chick flick fans won't like the martial arts action gangster parts."

I like good examples of both genres, but I think I'm pickier about chick flicks. Independently of that, I think the film did a better job on the martial arts action gangster clichés—they seemed to be more deftly handled. (This is a feeling I have in general about Luc Besson movies, but I felt it was more of an issue in this movie than in some others.)

On the other hand, my opinion about the relative merits of the two aspects of the movie may be biased because I'm a big fan of Bob Hoskins, who is really good at playing a gangster. He was really terrifying in this movie. The last film I saw him in was The Long Good Friday, where he plays a similar gangster character, so the roles were talking to each other. (I recommend TLGF but my favorite performance of his remains his role in Mona Lisa.)

Luc Besson films tend to be quite violent. It might sound odd, but I think he does a good job with it, because he treats it like it matters. There's a lot of emotional impact; it's not cartoony; I feel things for the characters who are undergoing it. I don't finish the movie feeling like I've been watching a bunch of actors and stunt people play Doom on the movie screen.

[1] I know some people think this term is offensive. I don't mean it that way, though, FWIW.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
epi_lj
May. 17th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC)
clawfoot and I saw it over the weekend as well and liked it quite a bit. I've been meaning to post about it. We went in expecting it to be a martial arts movie with an attempt at including a plot, and instead found it to be a movie that happened to have martial arts in it, which was a pleasant surprise. I still think that Jet Li's performance was mostly strengthened by them giving him a part where he didn't really have to deliver very many lines at all -- the guy absolutely cannot deliver lines well (in English at least). It kind of stikes me as the Keanu Reeves factor -- if you cast him as a mal-adjusted, wooden, emotionally stunted geek then he does pretty well with the role. But still, I thought it was a good job all around. I had a bit of a "What?" moment near the end, but it's spoilerey, so I'll not post the details. It was a very minor thing, anyway.
firecat
May. 17th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
I still think that Jet Li's performance was mostly strengthened by them giving him a part where he didn't really have to deliver very many lines at all

I agree. I think a director who can work with an actor's strengths and avoid zir weaknesses is a good one.
apocalypse_of_g
May. 17th, 2005 01:11 pm (UTC)
My wife and I went to see the movie, and to my astonishment, she enjoyed it quite a bit. We had a good discussion afterwards about how it wasn't a movie in which the main character is faced with a decision between the beast side of himself or the higher side--but rather, he has to work through the beast in order to come out on the other side, not denying what is a part of him. It's interesting, how Luc Besson keeps repeating this theme, how the main characters in his movies have to come to terms with the reality of their humanity, how they are more than just a weapon. Actually, Unleashed is just a male version of La Femme Nikita: person trained to do nothing but kill finds other person who cares for him, whose strength allows said killer to evolve beyond him/her own limitations. Something very interesting going on in his movies.
firecat
May. 17th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
It's interesting, how Luc Besson keeps repeating this theme, how the main characters in his movies have to come to terms with the reality of their humanity, how they are more than just a weapon.

Yep, that's an interesting theme in his movies.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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