Every film has a moral. Often, they’re made explicit, as if the film were a fable and the audience were kindergarten students sitting in rapt attention instead of 23 year old losers in basketball jerseys playing games on their cell-phones. Sometimes, the moral exists in the subtext, and often may not be there deliberately, a result of a subconscious judgment or fear on the part of the filmmakers. It’s certain that the message in Saving Private Ryan that war is chaotic and cruel is deliberate, but when it comes to those straight-to-DVD action movies sold out of the back of Source magazine starring whatever G-Unit member happens to be out on bail at the moment, the obvious moral that pride comes before a fall is often subservient to a subtext glorifying guns and drugs. While it’s unclear whether the decision was deliberate or unconscious, it’s obvious that the filmmakers of Unleashed are trying to convince us that the Chinese don’t make good pets.
And they’re not wrong. The Chinese are feral, difficult to domesticate, and do not respond well to English commands. And while they’re very cheap to feed, subsisting on a diet of white rice and Styrofoam take-out containers, they often injure themselves racing import-tuned Hondas. In Unleashed, Jet Li plays just such a Chinia-Pet, a martial arts master kept on a dog collar and trained to kill by Bob Hoskins, who has apparently decided that his last good role was in The Long Good Friday and he would like to remind people of that.
Other than that, there’s not a lot to say about this movie. Of course, it’s patently ridiculous, from its very premise to the end credits and everything in between, but pointing that out would be like picking a scab: satisfying, but ultimately detrimental to the healing process. I will mention, however, that if I were a blind piano tuner played by Morgan Freeman, and I discovered a half-dead Chinese fellow bleeding on the ground in a warehouse, I would probably call either the police or the city, instead of taking him home to probably rape my white daughter. Also, while I’ve never been in a street gang, I’ve seen one or to dealing crack outside my window in my time, and I can assure you that when they’re waiting in line patiently to get beaten up one by one by Jet Li in a bad Eurotrash kung-fu movie, they’re not comprised of two Wu-Tang Clan rejects, an Asian kid with a bandana from the local video game arcade, and a few street-punk-lites from No Doubt. But then again, maybe the film is trying to preach racial harmony. What a noble moral.