Review Date: May 11, 2005
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamene
Producers: Luc Besson, Steve Chasman, Jet Li
An orphaned Asian boy is taken in by a British bad man who trains the child to react like a violent dog whenever released from the metal collar wrapped around his neck. You see, the baddie needs to collect on some outstanding debts, and if folks donít want to pay, he just sics his trained attack man-beast on them. Then one day, the young boy escapes the clutches of his master, and moves in with a kind blind man and his daughter. It isnít long before the manchild learns to embrace more out of life, but what will happen if his master returns to claim the dog/man? What ensues is plenty of ass-kicking and Jet LiÖacting.
Awesome. Iíve been waiting for a kickass action movie like this one all year, and even though the slate of films to get to this point has been something short of awful (for the most part), itís always nice to get reminded of why movies rock and roll, and why a potent action flick can make everything seem so right again. Congrats to Jet Li for finally picking a Hollywood project worthy of his talent, with a great mix of flashy fight sequences and dramatic potency, intertwined with a cute story about a man who never truly experienced actual childhood development. Itís no surprise that French filmmaker Luc Besson is behind this film, which has more than a couple of similarities to one of the best films he ever produced/directed called LEON (or THE PROFESSIONAL in the states). Iím not sure why American studios insist on changing the titles to these great films to generics, but even in the case of this movie, I would have preferred the European title of DANNY THE DOG. Title aside, if youíre looking for a movie that is going to punch you in the face, provide stylish strokes galore, an entertaining bad guy in Bobby Hoskins, a nice bit of ďdepthĒ via Morgan Freeman, some flashback sequences to Dannyís childhood and a cute relationship with Freemanís daughter, this is the movie for you. Oh, and make sure you donít walk in a few minutes late because the film starts off with a BANG, as the dogís collar is removed and asses are kicked up, down, right and even, center.
That said, you do need to know that after the filmís initial emphasis on action/crime, things really take a turn toward the dramatic as Danny meets up with Freeman and his daughter, and action completely disappears from the picture. I actually appreciated this part as well, as it gave the character a little more life, and even made me care about the olí pup. Also, in the back of my mind, I always knew that shit wasnít going to remain tame for long, and I was right, as the ass-whooping soon returned to the filmís final act, with a cavalcade of battles moving to the forefront, including brutal face-punches, crotch-kicks and even some hair-pulls. Honestly though, as an audience member, I could actually feel some of that stuff. One particular sequence between Li and a baddie in a tiny bathroom is both invigorating to watch and quite vicious. Kudos to director Leterrier for giving the film a unique look as well, with plenty of style to boot, and action scenes that can actually be experienced, as opposed to much of the PG-13 crap that weíd been getting of late, with everything cut so fast that you donít even have time to figure out whose ass is kicking who. Unlike some of Bessonís other recently produced fare, this filmís soundtrack is also very tame and absent of crappy hip-hop tunes, with classical music playing a nice, relaxing part in it all. Honestly, I had a blast with this film! It had a great mix of everything that I look for in my action movies with memorable punch-kick sequences, a fun baddie, an endearing lead, some decent drama, a little bit of humor, a not-too-overly serious tone, plenty of high style and an overall bag of whoop-ass entertainment. Shit, they even tossed some T and A in there for the kids!
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian