( 2005 / France )
Reviewed By-Paul Cooke Director: Louis Leterrier Starring: Jet Li , Morgan Freeman , Bob Hoskins & Kerry Condon Source : Panorma Distributions / Region 3 Special Edition 2 DVD Set / Wide Screen Ratio 2:35:1 / Anamorphic 16:9 / English Language DTS 6.1 ES / Action Sequence Highlights /Making Of / Deleted Scene / Out Takes / Trailer / Music Video
Prolific film producer Luc Besson delivers a screenplay created to showcase Asian Action super star Jet Li’s diversity as an actor. Best known for his martial arts movies yet perhaps overlooked when it comes to his emotive ability to perform character roles. Alongside experienced performers , Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins , the diminutive performer gets his biggest opportunity to date to showcase his other talents to a global audience. That’s not to say that he’s about to walk away from his true calling as a martial arts Action star !. With the assistance of Luc Besson Jet Li has come up with a role that truly enables him to flex his acting muscles as well as his lightening fast reflexes.
Jet Li plays the role of Danny , who believes himself to be an orphan , taken under the wing of underground debt collector Bart as played by Bob Hoskins. Danny has been raised literally as a loyal dog , fed by his master but honed to be a savage animal once unleashed from his restraining collar. Once the steel neck brace is removed Danny is set loose upon whomever Bart sees fit to invoke his twisted retribution upon. Like a ferocious pit bull terrier , with a black belt in body part immobilisation and all the moves of a relentless fighting machine , Danny tears into his victims by the multitude. As Bart sits back with a smug arrogance observing his dog do his business Jet Li unleashes a frenetic fury not seen since his early incarnations during the heyday of Hong Kong Action cinema.
With fight choreography by the legendary Yuen Woo Ping it is a firm acknowledgement upon the fight sequence credentials. Each of the set piece brawls is sensationally aggressive and within the boundaries of credibility without being overtly transparent as to the use of wire work. Jet Li’s character takes a body pounding on many an occasion but so too do his opposing co-stars , and non more so than the specialist martial artist called upon in the final scene to bring Danny to heal for his master Bart.
Running through the very heart of this violent gangland tale is a story of redemption that has Danny finding himself thanks to the friendship of Morgan Freeman’s character Sam , and the touching relationship that develops between Sam’s adopted daughter Victoria and the child like Danny. It is here that Jet Li gets to show an audience both old and new another side to his on screen characterisation and he pulls off the role asked of him very well. What Jet Li does not do , However , is forget that what his reputation has been built upon and it is never too long before his feet and fists are flying. The combination of Luc Besson and Jet Li is a good one and one that is likely to be re-established in the near future.
The whole production benefits not only from a solid Action foreground with a solid character driven backbone , but also from the creative involvement from most of the main players involved. Morgan Freeman kept the Director Louis Leterrier and Producer Luc Besson on their toes with his hands on character creativity , and even announced that he felt his role would benefit by Sam being a blind man just two days before shooting was due to commence. Tough guy Bart is clearly an extension of Bob Hoskins hard case character from ‘The Long Good Friday’ and his licence to add lib dialogue for the role of Bart definitely adds credence to his portrayal as the low life bad guy.
The movie is a far cry from most of Jet Li’s fantastical roles and shows him in a different light , but nonetheless one that is worth paying attention to. As Danny comes out of himself the audience will root for him and feel that heartfelt tug on the emotional strings as he gets drawn back in to his nightmarish world of barbarism by the despicable Bart , only to then fight for all his worth to escape once and for all when a final opportunity to do so offers itself.
There are many moments of viewing involvement that make the entire watching experience a rewarding one. A seat jolting , out of the blue ‘Final Destination’ moment will take most reclined patrons to an upright position in the blink of an eye. The non sanctioned underground fight arena tournament , where the champion is the one left alive , is very well done. The violence is amp-ed up here as Danny is realising there is more to life than killing , yet he is faced with opponents wielding weapons of pain intent on doing him nothing but harm !. The backdrop environment of Scotland is timeless and allows the film to be placed in a setting that could be anytime up to thirty years ago or even sometime in the near future. The blend of gritty dialogue and dogged characterisation amidst a grimy underbelly of society’s lost souls is lit up by the main players performances. Star Jet Li plays off Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins extremely well and never seeks to glorify his own role above theirs. The whole production of ‘Danny The Dog’ is underplayed wonderfully. The film is a contender for one of those late night theatre slots that attracts a hardcore following , and deservedly so.
Film : 3.5 Bitch Slaps Picture : 4.5 Bitch Slaps Sound : 4.5 Bitch Slaps Extras : 3.0 Bitch Slaps Overall : 4.0 Bitch Slaps
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