Unleashed (2005)

Rated R Our Content Rating: V-8 ; L-7 ; S/N-4 Running time: 1 hr 43 minutes

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. ..
I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children…
Insults have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Psalm 68:1-2. 8, 20-21

The LORD loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart
Psalm 97:10-11

Love is patient;
love is kind
1 Corinthians 13:4a

Unleashed

Combine the Kung-fu genre with an Ugly Duckling or Cinderella theme, and you might arrive at director Louis Leterrier and writer Luc Besson’s gangster fairy tale. Bart (Bob Hoskins), a Glasgow mobster, has raised Danny (Jet Li) as an attack dog. Forced to wear an elaborate dog collar and housed in a cage underneath the floor, Danny is taken out and unleashed whenever Bart wants to harm someone slow on paying back his loan shark money. With the collar on, Danny is quiet and docile, but unlock his collar and give him orders to maim or kill, he becomes more savage, and dangerous, than a dozen pit bulls. Where and how Danny learned such gravity-defying martial arts skills so that he is able to take on a dozen men at once, we are not shown—just chalk it up to genes or whatever. Actually, whatever, for later he learns the true identity of his mother, and she was definitely not a fighting Amazon.

After several brutal incidents in which Danny creates mayhem among Bart’s enemies, his master is seemingly killed by enemies, and Danny begins a new phase of his life. He meets Sam (Morgan Freeman), a blind piano tuner who is working in Glasgow because he has enrolled his almost 18 year-old daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon) in a music academy. Sam takes the now homeless, and almost mute, young man to his home, where Danny is treated in a totally different manner than when Bart was his master. Exposed to beautiful music and the kindness of Sam and Victoria, Danny slowly emerges from his bestial shell, reminding one of those old stories about a child raised by wild animals who is returned to civilization.

Of course, this is not the end of the story. Bart is not dead, but was severely wounded. When he recovers, he wants to get Danny back under his control. It seems that evil is never satisfied in letting well enough alone, and so begins a mighty struggle for our hero’s newfound soul. This film might not appeal to those who prefer their martial arts films as straight action flicks, but others who enjoy both escapist fare and a few thoughtful movie moments, will welcome it as a step above the usual film fare at the local multiplex cinema.

For reflection/discussion 1) How is Danny more like a beast than a human being when we first meet him? Do you think that anyone would believe that he could ever change, given such a background? How is this a very hopeful movie?

2) Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that if a person tries to keep another in the gutter, he must get down into it himself. How is this the case for Bart?

3) What does the film show about the healing/transformative power of love and kindness? How are the words of “The Preacher” in Proverbs 4:14-19 an apt description of Bart and Sam? And the following words of the chapter good advice for Danny?

4) What role does music play in the story? What have you seen in your life or that of another of the power of music?