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Film / Danny the Dog

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"You're a dog! You're my dog!"

"We've come to think of you as family, and that's what families do—they stick together."

Danny the Dog (also known as Unleashed in some markets) is a 2005 action movie directed by Louis Leterrier, written by Luc Besson (of The Fifth Element fame), and starring Jet Li, Bob Hoskins, and Morgan Freeman.

Danny (Li) is a trained assassin, working as an enforcer for his "Uncle Bart" (Hoskins), a low-level gangster in Glasgow. He's kept like a dog in a crate under the floor and wearing a metal collar, conditioned to fight and kill on Bart's orders. When he survives a hit that leaves the gang dead, he stumbles into a blind piano tuner named Sam (Freeman) and his adopted daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon), who take him in and teach him to live like a human. But Bart isn't dead, and he wants Danny back.

Not to be confused with the death metal band of the same name.

Tropes used include:

  • Attack Animal: Of the brainwashed Super-Soldier variety.
  • Ax-Crazy: Lefty, most notable in the final scenes when he's allowed to go after Danny, (but is told by Bart not to kill him.) He gleefully disregards Bart's orders and opens fire with a sadistic grin on his face the whole time. When he corners Danny in one of the unoccupied apartments, he beats on the door with his pistols, howling all the while.
  • Badass Adorable: Danny, as he reclaims his humanity.
  • Bald of Evil: Bart, Wyeth, and the Stranger.
  • Bathroom Brawl: The final battle between Danny and The Stranger takes place in an apartment bathroom. A woman taking a shower at the time rushes out screaming as the two continue their brawl.
  • Berserk Button: Danny's collar was meant to be one through mental conditioning when he was with Bart. However, after being humanized, his other button is anyone that tries to harm Sam and Victoria.
  • The Berserker: Danny's fighting style is pure aggression.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: At his core, Danny is a very kind, innocent and sweet-natured person but harm those he loves and he will subject you to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Birds of a Feather: Danny and Victoria both lost their mothers at an early age (when they were just old enough to remember and miss them) and share a passion for playing the piano.
  • Blind Black Guy: Sam.
  • Blood Sport: An underground fetish club/pit-fighting circuit run by Wyeth.
  • Brutal Brawl: The titular character was raised as a half-feral Dumb Muscle and serves as an extortion tool of a mob boss, so brutal barehanded beatdowns are basically the whole point. It commonly involves bashing people against the walls and furniture, kicks, stomps, and headbutts. Jet Li specifically altered his fighting style to match the role.
  • Close-Call Haircut: In the fight with the machete-wielding bald guy.
  • Conditioned to Be Weak: Danny is a young man who has been raised as a human attack dog for his Uncle Bart, who is a mobster. Part of this training involves being conditioned to be docile while wearing a metal collar and shifting into attack mode when it is removed. When he comes to live with Sam and Victoria, he doesn't let them remove it because he is afraid he will instinctively attack them.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: During Danny's first fight at the pit-fighting circuit, he goes up against the reigning champ who shows off his toughness by smashing a brick over his head before the fight. When the fight starts, Danny dodges the champ's first punch, punches the guy a few times in the throat, and walks away as the champ falls down dead from a crushed windpipe.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory! / Reflexive Response: Initially, Danny doesn't let Sam or Victoria try to remove his collar out of fear he'll beat them to a pulp.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Danny's mother, who he remembers as a complete angel. Also Victoria's parents, who sound like they were both very kind, loving people.
  • Defusing the Tyke-Bomb: Sam and Victoria towards Danny. He's a young adult, but he still has the mind of a child.
  • Destination Defenestration: Danny kicks two mooks out a window and the machete-wielding Stranger, though Danny makes the effort to save him, but fails. Danny himself is thrown out the window but saves himself by grabbing into an electrical cable.
  • The Determinator: Bart, surprisingly.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Played straight when Danny is with Bart, completely and heartwarmingly subverted when Sam adopts him.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Hell yeah. Danny has a new family in the form of Sam and Victoria, Bart's been presumably jailed, they're out of Glasgow, and Danny is no longer an anti-social human attack dog.
  • The Fagin: Bart has raised Danny from boyhood to be his attack dog.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Bart acts all nice and amiable, but at heart he's a self-centered bastard who only cares about improving his standing in the Glasgow underworld.
  • Fight Clubbing: Danny gets entered into a series of underground fight clubs to make money for his boss.
  • Forced Prize Fight: The first thing Bart does once he gets Danny back in his clutches.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Unusual for a Jet Li film, Danny fights using pure, raw aggression rather than technical martial arts moves, which makes sense given his background. His toughest opponent at the pitfighting bar also uses Good Ole Fisticuffs. He simply grabs whatever's near at hand and swings it at Danny's head.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The operator of the underground fights appears to be much more powerful in the crime world than Bart.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Bart pulls a few of these on Danny when good old-fashioned manipulation doesn't do it anymore.
  • Hidden Depths: Bart - you never seem to know when he's being truthful or simply trying to manipulate Danny. Whatever his motive, he has much more going on beneath the surface.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Bart kills Danny's mother when she rejects her advances and later attempts to kill Danny, but zig-zags between doing that and trying to manipulate him into coming back since Danny's very useful to him.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: Sam says this to Danny near the end.
  • Improvised Weapon User: The sailor-looking pitfighter Danny faces last at the pitfighting bar. He grabs whatever's nearby and smashes it over Danny's head. This is something of a twist, given that all the previous fighters had traditional martial arts styles.
  • I Want Them Alive!: Bart to Danny. He's no use to him dead.
  • Light Is Not Good: A recurring theme throughout the movie - Bart dresses in expensive white suits and gets around in a white vehicle, and the bald, machete-wielding thug at the end of the film is clad in a white robe.
  • Made of Iron: Bart. Survives his car getting T-boned at full speed, getting pumped full of machine-gun bullets, and then getting into another accident when the car flips over at full speed.
  • Magical Negro: Although the target isn't white, Sam is still the one who "normalizes" Danny and teaches him about the proper way of living.
  • Machete Mayhem: The Stranger's weapon is a machete, a pretty odd choice in a movie set in Scotland of all places.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Victoria is a slightly dorkier and well-rounded one than usual. She's cheerful, friendly, talkative, and knows how to coax Danny out of his shell. She also teaches him how to have fun and enjoy life, such as taking him out for ice cream and teaching him how to play the piano in the evenings. However, she's not without her own troubles, since she admits with pain in her eyes that she misses her mother every day. She also clearly has a life outside of Danny, as she came to Glasgow to go to a fine school, has a big piano recital, and intends to go back to New York once she graduates.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Bart to Danny, full stop. The man knows exactly what to say to get under Danny's skin and back in his clutches.
  • A Man Is Always Eager. Averted by Danny, who shows no interest in having sex even when offered the chance. After a successful day shopping for Danny's talents, Bart offers to get Danny a prostitute. Danny's response?
    Bart: I could get you a woman! You've never had a woman.
    Danny: I want a piano.
  • Market-Based Title: Danny the Dog in France and Hong Kong, but Unleashed in the US, UK, and Australia because the original sounds like a children's program in English.
  • Never Learned to Read: Danny
  • Nice Girl: Victoria almost to saccharine levels. The second she sees Danny, despite the latter having No Social Skills, she gives him a friendly hi. Despite only seeing him for a few seconds she already has questions about him. When Sam tells her Danny likes music, she gives him her own keyboard for him to practice and even teaches him how to play a duet. Much of it pays off when Victoria is ultimately the one that removes the collar off a nervous Danny. Yet when she does, he never hurts her.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Bart's car is T-boned by a semi and riddled with machine-gun fire; Danny is only conscious because he was shielded by Bart's body, but only one of his two head goons ultimately survive. Then later, Danny forces Lefty to badly crash another car and roll it with Bart in tow, and everyone survives that crash. THEN a body falls onto and crushes the roof in of yet another car with Bart in the back and one of his goons driving, and Bart survives YET AGAIN. What is this guy made of?!
  • No Social Skills: Having been raised as a human attack dog by Bart, Danny has no idea how to function in society.
  • One-Hit Kill: Danny effortlessly kills a much bigger opponent simply with a few punches to the windpipe.
  • One-Man Army: Danny plows through numerous opponents over the course of the film.
  • Papa Wolf: Despite his blindness, Sam will do what it takes to protect Victoria and Danny. Danny being a human dog himself also qualifies if anyone tries to hurt the two.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: When Young!Danny saw his mother murdered, he managed to kick a guy hard enough to knock him into a wall. This impresses Young!Bart so much, he kidnaps Danny and turns him into a "dog". Danny is still much the same as an adult, being neither especially tall or muscular but still able to take down much bigger opponents with ease.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: As long as Bart gets paid what he's owed, he sees no need to have Danny rough up anyone. When one guy tries to kill him and his men, he still only takes what he's owed, with interest.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Danny is this due to Bart's conditioning-normally, he's docile and naive, but he turns into a killing machine when Bart gives him the command.
  • Restraining Bolt: Danny's collar. He just stands there when Bart can't unleash him and watch as the old man gets beaten up with apathy.
  • Save the Villain: Danny attempts to save the Stranger from falling to his death, but the man's robe rips, making him fall onto Bart's car, killing him and one of Bart's bodyguards.
  • Ship Tease: Danny and Victoria. She comments that "he's cute" when she first meets him, the first time she kisses him on the cheek he's elated, they share a few held gazes throughout the film, she's better able at coaxing him out of his shell than Sam, and when she removes his collar late into the film the two look as though they are about to kiss before she kisses his neck instead.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Sam to Bart at the end, in response to his Hannibal Lecture with a flower pot to the head.
  • Squash Match: When Bart enters Danny in a fighting competition, Danny must prove himself a worthy contender by taking down another applicant. Which he does with a single blow to the throat, in about half a second.
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred!: Bart to Danny at the end, to prove to Danny that he's nothing but an animal and a killer like Bart says.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Danny has been trained (read: physically and mentally abused) to violently attack or kill anyone Bart sics him onto whenever Danny's collar is removed. However, in a scenario where Bart isn't able to take off Danny's collar, Danny just stands catatonically as Bart is beaten up since Bart never trained Danny to fight without having his collar removed. Learning from his previous mistake, Bart attempts to train Danny to attack when he sees a device's red light turning on and buzzing. Still, Danny fails to come to Bart's rescue once again after being distracted, since it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
    • When Bart is interrupted from screwing a random hooker by Danny (twice), the hookers react like anyone would upon seeing a dirty young man with a dog collar: they leave and are disgusted with Bart keeping Danny like that.
    • One of the people that owes money to Bart is a wealthy criminal who owns a jewelry store and has over twenty henchmen; Bart has Danny beat up said criminal, his men, and trash his shop when he tries to stiff Bart, then beat him up. Then later, he has his men hit Bart's car with a truck then shoot it up with assault rifles. A man with that amount of resources should've been left alone.
    • Bart goes to interrogate Sam's grocer on where Danny lives so he can capture him; initially, she lies that she doesn't recognize him. Then, Bart pulls out a gun. Considering that there are other customers in danger and there's nothing she can do, she sells Danny out due to fear for her and her patrons' safety.
    • After Danny beats up all of his men, Bart goes after him with a gun taken from one of his dead bodyguard, a Glock 18C, the compensated, selective fire variant of the semi-automatic Glock 17; the guns' rate of fire so high, Bart empties the gun in a single burst from a standard magazine, forcing him to reload rather quickly.
    • The reigning champion of the pit-fighting ring learns the hard way that being really big, strong and tough doesn't mean a crushed windpipe won't kill you as quickly and as easily as it will anyone else.
  • Tempting Fate: After Danny's first fight at the club, Bart declares "I tell you, this is gonna be one lovely day!" Cue the car getting T-boned by a truck and then riddled with bullets.
  • "They Still Belong to Us" Lecture: Bart to Danny after Danny turns over a new leaf with Sam and Victoria.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: After having lived with Sam and Victoria, Danny decides he won't kill least until the lives of his new family are threatened.
  • True Companions: Sam, Victoria, and Danny aren't related by blood, but they make a family.
  • Tyke Bomb: Danny, raised from boyhood to be an attack dog.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Danny, with his collar off.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Bart, full stop. He doesn't look the type, but he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty when he needs to.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Bart during the climax, when Danny inadvertently causes an elite henchman to fall from a high window and smash his car. Thoroughly fed up, he drops his previous I Want Them Alive! mentality and resolves to drag Danny back himself or kill him. He almost shoots Danny in a fit of rage and then screams at him to kill him after Danny beats him to a bloody pulp.
  • Villains Out Shopping: There are several scenes where Bart and his cohorts are simply chatting in the car, talking about what they would like to do with their lives and their (literal) dreams.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: During the climax, Bart's henchmen are swarming the complex. They're never seen after the confrontation between Danny and Bart.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Implied by the conditioning Bart inflicted on Danny to get him to respond to his collar.
    Bart: "Like my saint of a mum used to say, 'Get 'em young, and the possibilities are endless.'"
  • You Killed My Father: Danny's mother was murdered by Bart.

Alternative Title(s): Unleashed