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Movie where Bob Hoskins is a gangster #437

Like Withnail & I, it’s been suggested to me a million times and I’ve turned it down continuously in favour of something else, and now I’ve finally decided to watch Unleashed, also known by the rather silly-if-contextually-appropriate Danny The Dog in some regions. I was very, very impressed.

Danny is a young man who’s been trained into becoming what is essentially a gangster’s attack dog, becoming a ruthless fighter once his collar is removed. However, he has minimal life experience and his mannerisms come off as like that of a shy child, and his limited understanding of instructions and the world around him get into trouble with his “master.” He finds a friend in a blind piano tuner who takes him in to his home and gives him a fresh start on life, though his troubled past continues to haunt him.

I admit I was a little reluctant to watch this not only because Unleashed is one hell of a generic title (it makes sense in context!), but also how I had just watched a martial arts movie last night, though, jeez, the contrast between them is phenomenal. Showdown in Little Tokyo was light on story, high on sleaze, and had a lot of emphasis on people carrying huge fuck-off guns everywhere they went. Unleashed, meanwhile, has a dark yet emotional storyline that had me truly captivated, and sprinkles doses of high-octane, bone-breaking, gladiator-style fight scenes throughout. It’s like comparing The Wizard of Oz to The Lord Of The Rings.

What really captivated me about Unleashed was Danny, the main character. When we first see him, his life literally revolves around fighting – he’s carted around by his gangster collection agency as a threat, and then told to beat the stuffing out of anyone who doesn’t pay up. When he isn’t fighting, he can barely speak, has no education, and is left in a cage with only a baby’s book of words and a teddy bear. He doesn’t know a thing about the world around him and he’s stuck in the ugliest side of it, so when he’s taken in by kindly old Morgan Freeman, he’s adorably shy and hides himself away in his room with a keyboard to play. His new caretaker shows him how to live his new life, the technique of sampling fruit and how to cook, as well as expanding his vocabulary, and he expresses a beautiful child-like innocence about him. His way of repeating words he’s been told results in a cute scene where he reveals he’s late home because he stopped for ice cream, and reminds me of myself when I was but a tyke. Obviously the implication is that he’s child-like, but to me it was reminiscent of something along the lines of autism.

To go on a barely related tangent, autism fascinates me. It’s a diverse spectrum, and the people I’ve met diagnosed with it haven’t all been winners, but the sheer variety of attitudes and mindsets held together by several distinguishing features just intrigues me. Danny’s timid and eccentric mannerisms couldn’t help but remind me of it slightly, and despite the fact the film’s meant to be a martial arts flick, I couldn’t help but feel if it had been intended as a film about an autistic guy being shown a new way of life, it would’ve worked fantastically. I watched Rain Man a few weeks ago, and by god, I couldn’t sit through to the halfway marker. Yes, I’m aware that is how some autistic individuals are like, and I am very much aware how obnoxious those mannerisms can be, but when with such people you can, if you’re feeling like a nice kind of asshole, politely excuse yourself and say you have business to attend to elsewhere and slip away. The movie is focused entirely on that one man and you’re never given the chance to hang out with somebody a little more interesting. I’ve heard it gets a little more interesting once they reach the casino, but if I were feeling in the mood for mild exaggeration, I would say that not a single second of the movie was interesting to me. Obviously that’s a mild exaggeration, but that’s not far from the truth!

So, uh, yes, we were talking about Jet Li, weren’t we?

I would dare say that Unleashed is a beautiful film. I came for the martial arts but stayed for the beautiful, emotional story. I would also say that it’s the first movie I’ve seen Bob Hoskins in where I’m not always thinking “what’s Mario doing with a British accent?” I will say, however, that one part of the story bugged me – at the end Hoskins and all his multi-cultural gangster buddies are chasing after Danny in the apartment building; there’s at least four other guys in the building and it’s implied there’s a mob of them outside, as it’s shown he can’t hop out the window ’cause there’s dudes packing heat down there. However, for the entire duration of the final showdown between Hoskins and Danny, those gangsters just… vanish. They’re never seen again, and given the humongous crowd Hoskins ordered in to track down Danny you’d hardly expect them to just slink away after Bob is hit over the head with a flower pot. Even just adding a scene with sirens blaring in the background and prompting the gangsters to get their asses out of there, that would’ve solved everything. Still, beautiful movie. I love it.

I also watched the first two episodes of Nurse Witch Komugi.

I had to stop in the middle of the second one and just ask myself, “what am I watching?”

I’m serious.

There’s some anime I pick up because the whole thing genuinely intrigues me (such as Alien Nine); some because there’s a certain buzz or style that looks appealing (Nurse Witch being today’s example); and then there’s something I try out simply because it’s short, so, hey, how painful could it be? I still won’t forgive Ninja Cadets for the thirty minutes of my life I wasted watching it. Nurse Witch Komugi just has a quirky style of visuals and characters to it judging only from the opening intro and I was interested to see what it was like.

I’m really not sure what it is. It’s not quite action, it’s definitely not slice of life, and I would be hard-pressed to personally label it as a comedy. Twenty five minutes go by and I’m really not sure what I’ve witnessed. It’s just there. I’m one hundred percent aware that that’s probably the worst judgment I’ve ever made on anything, but it really did not leave much of an impact at all. The humour was no different from anything else I’d watched, the action was on par with the first few episodes of The Real Ghostbusters (and that’s not a compliment), and the characters most certainly were not endearing. Busty, yes, but endearing, no.

On the bright side, this means that’s one anime I can purge from my bloated collection, alongside King of Bandit Jing. Man, was that a totally generic disappointment! ADV Films sure did a great job of making it look interesting.

One Comment

  1. MightyKombat wrote:

    I never really watched much of Bob Hoskins’ films, so I can’t really say what I think of him. He had a nice moustache from what I can tell, though.

    As for that anime thing, I remember owning an anime DVD of Burn Up W. Give that a try, its pretty nice.

    Friday, May 28, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink