Unleashed - Let me begin by saying FUCK YES! Okay...now that I got that out of my system...Bart (Bob Hoskins) is an evil son of a bitch. He's a loan shark with a very persuasive way of getting people to pay him back. If his payment doesn't arrive on time, he merely takes off Danny's collar. Danny (Let Li) is a man who Bart raised from childhood to be a brutal killing machine. He's referred to as Danny the Dog because he is essentially a pit bull. When Danny's collar is on he is completely docile, but he has been trained so that when the collar comes off he is to go wild and beat the living shit out of everyone in the room. All is going rather well for Bart until he pisses off the wrong people and they seek revenge. Believing that his master Bart is dead, and feeling helpless and confused, Danny wanders off and is discovered by an elderly, blind piano tuner named Sam (Morgan Freeman). Sam and his stepdaughter Victoria (Kerry Condon) take Danny into their home and slowly begin to whittle away at the emotional blocks built up by Bart over the years. Danny is finally beginning to live a happy, normal life when he discovers, much to his dismay, that Bart is still alive. And not only that, but he wants Danny back. When I first saw the preview for Unleashed about two years ago I remember thinking "Hey, that looks like a Jet Li action movie that actually has a plot." I think that'd be the best way to describe this film. Usually Jet Li movies (much less martial arts movies in general) just seem like hollow shells which are used to push action scene after action scene on viewers. Unleashed is quite the opposite. The plot quickly takes over and before I knew it I could care less if Li was going to punch anyone or not. Every single actor, including Jet himself, delivers a spectacular performance, and it's hard not to feel emotionally involved in what's going on on the screen. Then, just when you thought I was getting all mushy on you...the fucking fight scenes in this movie! God DAMN! I like a good fight scene as much as anyone else, but never before have I ever felt like I was getting punched in the face every time an actor in a movie landed a blow. The action scenes were some of the most well done, not to mention believable ones that I've ever seen. This is saying a lot considering that Unleashed was helmed by Louis Leterrier who is responsible for not only the ridiculous film The Transporter, but also the even more laughable sequel Transporter 2. But let's forget about believable for a second. How about brutal? Jesus...I don't even know how they filmed some of the shit that's in this movie. It sure as hell looked like Jet Li was actually leveling people almost every time he hit someone. And the sound effects in the fights were incredible! I can't say that I've ever actually thought to myself in the middle of a fight scene how good the sounds of impact were. I really did during this film, though. Unleashed did several things for me. It showed me what a movie fight scene should look like, it proved to me that Jet Li is not only a martial arts mastermind, but also a credible actor, and most of all it entertained the shit out of me. I mean, have I cursed this much in a review before? Fuck no, I haven't.
Fearless - I probably shouldn't be following up Unleashed with this, but here we go. As a child, the son of a Wu Shu master, Huo Yuanjia (Jet Li) wanted to grow up to be the best fighter in China. He became so overcome by his goal that he became reckless and self-centered. Drunk on wine, he murdered an opposing Wu Shu master, whose students then murdered Huo's mother and daughter. Ashamed of himself he left his home and wandered into the wilderness where he stumbled upon a small farming village where he worked for many years before deciding to return to his home to reclaim his pride and take over his father's martial arts school. Times have changed, though, and the Western world has moved into China. Trying to cripple the will of the Chinese, the Westerners hold a tournament of champion fighters. Huo Yuanjia rises to the occasion, but can he bring victory and pride to his people? Sounds a little stereotyical, huh? Guy gets drunk on power, goes wild, gets depressed, finds peace in the wild, then returns to be the next big thing. If you've heard the word 'anime', then you've probably seen this plot before. However, Fearless gets away with it because it's based on the true story of the real Huo Yuanjia. Despite it's lacking plot, Fearless wasn't so bad. The fights (specifically the one between Huo and Master Chin) are visually impressive. What else should we expect from Yuen Woo-Ping? After all, he was the fight choreographer for The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Kill Bill Volume 1, Kill Bill Volume 2, and Unleased, among a menagerie of others. Fearless was filmed in Chinese, which is how I watched it, with subtitles. I think that this was the first time I'd seen a movie in a different language that had English sprinkled throughout. It was like the revers of watching an English language movie and not understanding the subtitled parts. That was kind of interesting. Aside from the plot, which was nothing special, and the fights, which don't warrant as much enthusiasm as those from Unleashed, which I just reviewed, I'm not sure there's much else to say about Fearless. If you like Chinese culture, fight scenes, and all that jazz, this is a good movie for you to check out. I didn't hate it.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) is a small time crook who was out robbing a toy store with his pal when they accidentally tripped an alarm. As they flee the scene, a civilian woman pulls a gun and shoots Lockhart's partner. Harry continues running as the cops chase him, and he winds up rushing into a casting session for a new movie. Through a colossal coincidence, the scene he must pretend to rehearse for so that the cops don't realize he's their guy, is about someone who's just had their best friend killed. His actual emotions spilling forth based on the shooting that just occurred, Harry gets the part and is flown to LA where he is teamed up with a real private investigator named Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), who's job it is to train Harry to act like a private investigator for the movie that he's been cast for. Through an even more incredible series of events, Harry ends up actually involved in a murder case, and from there things just get ridiculous. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a sleeper hit for me. Apparently I'm the only person in the world who saw the trailer and didn't think it looked spectacular, so it took me a little while to take notice. It was through the constant insistence of a friend that I finally rented and saw it. Hey, I can't be right one hundred percent of the time...this movie kicks ass! If you read my review of Lucky # Slevin, then you already know that my favorite types of movies are what I've dubbed "comedy of errors with a brain and a hint of action". Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of these. The plot will give your brain whiplash as you're dragged through a series of events that takes multiple viewings to truly appreciate (if not understand). It's funny, it's exciting, it's intriguing, and Robert Downey Jr. is great in it. I never paid any attention to Downey Jr. before, but this film really made me see him for the great acting talent that he is. The same can be said for Val Kilmer, who shows a whole new side to the diverse group of roles that he can play with this movie. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is fun and it will make you think. What more could you ask for? So if you haven't seen this movie yet, follow my lead and take someone else's advice. Go watch it. Now.