Danny the Dog is better than it should be–it’s not as good as it could have been, but it’s definitely better than it should be.
The film finally gives Jet Li an appropriate English language role. Here, he can turn in a decent performance while doing his physical stuff. Li’s very likable (maybe because he’s so diminutive).
Villain Bob Hoskins is a bit of a problem though. While dynamic, the character’s too one dimensional (it’s one of those wholly evil villains) and Hoskins doesn’t bring anything to it.
The big surprise of the film (besides it being good and Morgan Freeman starring in it) is Kerry Conden, playing Freeman’s stepdaughter. Conden binds the film. She and Li’s chemistry (it comes mostly from her; he’s good here, no miraculous) is very nice. It’s not quite a romance and not quite not.
Director Leterrier’s the film’s greatest asset. His fight scenes utilizes Li’s martial arts abilities in the narrative, but he also brings the human element.
The story’s incredibly simple. It might be entirely free of subplots–for example, Freeman’s great apartment–he tunes pianos–is never explained–so it shouldn’t have much room to go wrong. Except it’s Besson; he eventually decides to dramatically shift the narrative’s course, trashing some great plot threads.
While the film doesn’t live up to its potential, it’s a shame it isn’t more acknowledged. Between Conden’s performance, Leterrier’s direction and even Besson’s script (which starts smart, then goes easy), Danny the Dog is good stuff.
Directed by Louis Leterrier; written by Luc Besson; director of photography, Pierre Morel; edited by Nicolas Trembasiewicz; music by Massive Attack; production designer, Jacques Bufnoir; produced by Besson, Jet Li and Steven Chasman; released by Europa Corp.
Starring Jet Li (Danny), Morgan Freeman (Sam), Bob Hoskins (Bart), Kerry Condon (Victoria), Vincent Regan (Raffles), Dylan Brown (Lefty), Tamer Hassan (Georgie) and Michael Jenn (Wyeth).