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UMD Movie Review: Unleashed

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A surprisingly calm action film, Unleashed isn’t the action packed martial arts flick it was advertised to be. It’s a drama, and an unexpectedly good one. Jet Li’s brutal strikes in the opening few moments are intense, certainly more so than other recent films in the same vein.

The blind character Morgan Freeman plays is oblivious to Jet Li’s true nature, while bringing him into civilization that makes Unleashed special. Bob Hoskins is a perfect villain, raising Danny as an animal who does nothing but kill. The drama composes the middle of the film, sandwiched between some incredible fight sequences that make you forget you were bored just in case the drama failed to grasp you.

The only hurdle for Unleashed is the ridiculous concept. It’s hard to believe no one caught on that Danny, Jet Li’s character, went missing years ago. There was apparently no search, no questions, and no logic. The time spent explaining the past in flashbacks are brief, but enough to ruin the film if you can’t swallow it. Enjoy the film for what it is. You’ll be happy. (**** out of *****)

This is an interesting one of the PSP, set in the proper ratio of 2.35:1. The black levels are off, settling in a muddy area that washes out the darker moments in Danny’s life. Oddly, it’s better. The PSP’s screen has no refresh rate problems with the lack of solid blacks, and the fights are not duplicated by motion blur. Given their speed, that’s important. However, it also drowns out the non-action sequences, failing to capture the warmer tone set by the director. It’s a trade-off, but one that probably works better in the end. (***)

The 2.0 track included here probably works better in its confines than the DVD did. The two channels are used aggressively and often. The fight inside a small bathroom, arguably the films most impressive, really showcases the motion. The soundtrack is still a problem (as it was on DVD), blaring obnoxious bass that drowns out the impact of the punches. It’s best to set the audio levels to their default before watching this one. (***)

Extras are brought over from the DVD, including two music videos, one from the RZA and the other from Massive Attack. The Collar Comes Off is a look at how the film was made, yet spends precious minutes explaining the plot from the actors point-of-view. It’s filled with too much film footage, and almost nothing in the behind-the-scenes range. The same goes for the short director interview, though Louis Leterrier explains his career briefly. (**)

Those wondering if this is the unrated cut or R-rated version, you can know this is the R-rated. The difference? Nothing, actually. There’s a brief shot at the end of a piano. Don’t expect any more noticeable action or violence.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • http://criticalculture.blogspot.com Pacze Moj

    Caught this one a while ago. Like you say, it’s all a bit implausible, but I think that’s why I enjoyed it. I came for the action, stayed for Morgan Freeman and Kerry Condon, and had a good time because of the story.

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    Wait, what? Why are you supporting UMDs?

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Why wouldn’t I? They’ve sold 8 million of them.

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    Which completely boggles my mind because DVDs are of equal quality and are universally formatted. UMDs can only played on the PSP and no where else. You can’t even hook the PSP up to a large screen TV to watch it if you wanted (at least currently). It’s a colossal waste of money the way I see it. I guess most people just want to justify a PSP purchase (since there aren’t many (good) games available on it).