Critical Consensus: Jet Li Gets Fresh with "Unleashed"

by | May 13, 2005 | Comments

"Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" will dominate headlines next week, but this week, it’s all about kicking and screaming in one form or another. First off, Jet Li does a lot of kicking and screaming, as well as punching, in the action drama "Unleashed," co-starring recent Oscar winner Morgan Freeman. Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda do their fair share of screaming and baring their claws at each other as potential in-laws in the comedy "Monster-in-Law." There’s also a lot of screaming in "Mindhunters," a thriller starring Val Kilmer, LL Cool J and Christian Slater. Last, but not least, there’s the soccer comedy where Will Ferrell and elementary school kids do a lot of "Kicking and Screaming." Let’s see which of these films critics will be kicking around and screaming at.

Will Ferrell has become a highly bankable star after the enormous success of the family comedy "Elf." He returns to the big screen, this week, targeting the same demographic with "Kicking and Screaming," a soccer comedy in which he plays a father who tries to coach his son’s little league soccer team to the championship. Oscar winner Robert Duvall co-stars as his competitive father who coaches an opposing team. "Elf" was not only a surprising box office hit, but it was also a surprisingly well-reviewed film, scoring an outstanding 84% on the Tomatometer. "Kicking and Screaming," unfortunately, isn’t able to achieve that level of adoration with critics. While it’s likable enough, they think it’s a formulaic family film with only intermittent laughs. As of this writing, it scores a mixed 44% on the Tomatometer, which just happens to be Ferrell’s average Tomatometer.

Fresh from the commercial success of "Shall We Dance," J-Lo (a.k.a. Jennifer Lopez) will do battle with Jane Fonda (a.k.a. J-Fo to certain critics) in "Monster-in-Law," a comedy about an ex-news anchor (Fonda) who tries to scare off her son’s fiancé (Lopez) by being the mother-in-law from hell. You’ll have to watch the film to see whether or not Fonda’s character is successful, but the film is doing quite well at scaring off the critics. Stale, silly, and stupid are just a few of the adjectives used by critics to describe the film. It scored a moldy 17% on the Tomatometer, significantly lower than Lopez’s average of 37%. She hasn’t had a Fresh movie since 1998’s "Out of Sight."

A group of fallen stars no longer able to open movies by themselves – Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, and Christian Slater – hopes that their combined drawing power can attract audiences to "Mindhunters." Directed by Renny Harlin, well known for mindless action films like "Cliffhanger," "Mindhunters" is about a group of eight endangered FBI profilers who must find the serial killer amongst themselves. Despite being promoted as a psychological thriller, critics say it didn’t take long for the mindless action movie typical of Harlin to rear its ugly head. It scored 34% on the Tomatometer. That’s 10% lower than Harlin’s average Tomatometer of 45%.

Critics have a better reaction to Jet Li’s newest actioner "Unleashed," co-starring Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins and Kerry Condon. Li plays a man who was raised in captivity and trained to be a killing machine by a ruthless mobster (Hoskins) since childhood. When a turf war between two rival mob families left him under the care of a kind family (Freeman and Condon), he slowly regains his humanity. Freeman and Hoskins add credibility and respect to the film, something sorely lacking in previous American productions headlined by Li. The result is Li’s best reviewed American film. In addition to the spectacularly choreographed and bone-crunching fight scenes, critics applaud the filmmakers’ effort to tell an interesting story, even if the emotional scenes are not entirely successful. "Unleashed" scores a marginally Fresh 61% on the Tomatometer. Jet Li’s previous five American productions have averaged only 37%.

Before "Star Wars" opens next week, check out "Unleashed" if you’re in the mood for an action film with a fascinating premise – it’s the only new wide release critics are not kicking around or screaming at.

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