Danny (Li) has lived most of his life as the slave of crime boss Bart (Hoskins), kept in a cage and forced to fight on command. When Danny escapes during a hit attempt on his boss, hes taken in by blind piano tuner Sam (Freeman), who attempts to give him
As screenwriters go, Luc Besson is a great director. Having been clapperboard-shy since 1999s Joan Of Arc: The Messenger, Besson has filled the gap with a series of action unspectaculars (Kiss Of The Dragon, The Transporter, Taxi 3). Unleashed attempts to reunite the mix of heart and hurt that worked so well in Léon, Bessons last great writing/directing gig, but with far less success.
Transporters Leterrier makes a good fist of the action (a scrap in a cramped toilet is the standout), but his direction in the character-driven scenes fails to match up. The quiet domesticity of the scenes with Sam (Freeman) and his stepdaughter (Condon) attempting to acclimitize terrified, battered Danny (Li) to the real world are completely at odds with the dark violence of the underworld scenes. The acting in the former is restrained, in the latter loud and grating; even in look theyre polar opposites.
Initially it works as a contrast between the two aspects of Dannys life, but as the second half tries to bring the two together as Dannys 'owner' (Hoskins, over-acting to the brink of hernia) attempts to reclaim his pet, the two styles clash with the subtlety of a Li-administered kick in the crotch.
A promising idea that never develops beyond that. The original title of Danny The Dog was perhaps more apt.