Jet Li is terrific in "UNLEASHED," released on HD-DVD from UNIVERSAL. Li plays a man forcibly raised by a brutal mob figure, and made to wear a collar, as part of a Pavlov dog experiment, when it's removed, he becomes a killing machine, without conscience or thought on his mind, other than destroying his opponent. When Morgan Freeman as a blind piano instructor comes across the escaped victim, a new life for the human-canine seems possible, until the bad guys seek to reclaim him.
"UNLEASHED" is an unusual film. While there are moments that feel predictable, there are many more that don't and the quality of filmmaking, acting and the overall production values raise the film to a level more artistic than exploitive. It's a good, solid film.
UNIVERSAL previously released "UNLEASHED" as an hd-dvd combo presentation. While that version offered a great "DTS" mix, it was only available on the standard dvd side, so the HD-DVD version isn't compromised here, at least in that aspect. UNIVERSAL has provided the same 1080p/VC-1 transfer from that earlier release with the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors are vibrant and there's incredible depth throughout. The level of depth makes this one of the better hd-dvds released so far, offering more than enough "demonstration" quality moments for one to show off the capabilities of the format.
UNIVERSAL has provided the same Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix from the earlier HD-DVD combo release as well. The mix varies greatly in tone, alternating between being artistic and entertaining. The entertaining aspects of the mix are often too bombastic for its own good, with over-the-top thumps during fight scenes. However, the more artistic moments are genuinely effective, and help convey the film's quality in being more than what could've easily been an exploitation film.
Unfortunately, all of the extras previously available as part of the hd-dvd/combo presentation, are now gone on this hd-dvd only release.