District B13 (2004)

Layout 1 france-icon

Luc Besson, the man behind the films La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element amongst others, wrote the screenplay for this amazing action packed film that highlights the free running art of parkour, and its creator, David Belle.

The title of the film refers to a lowly district outside of Paris, which has been plagued with gang violence. It goes so bad that there is no government, no police, and no schools. However, it is the home of Leito, a loner who only cares about one thing: his sister Lola. When Leito learns that Lola has been kidnapped by local crime lord Taha because Leito refuses to let drug dealers near his place, he intends to take Taha down.

Six months later, a bomb has been placed in District B13 and it is up to Damian Tomaso, a tough as nails Parisian cop, to enter the area and find the bomb. It is no sooner that Damian and Leito find themselves on the same page as the bomb was stolen by none other than Taha. Both Leito and Damian have special skills that enable them to take on the bad guys. This becomes a highlight reel for the amazing art of parkour, a style that involves scaling buildings with no use of wires and jumping from rooftop to rooftop as well as martial arts courtesy of Raffaelli, who gained a following after his impressive performance in Besson’s 2001 thriller Kiss of the Dragon opposite Jet Li.

While Besson is credited with co-writing the screenplay with co-star Larci “Bibi” Naceri and producing the film, the film was directed by Pierre Morel, who got his start as a cinematographer who worked on the first installment of The Transporter trilogy. For his directorial debut, Morel used his expert sense of cinematography with director of photography Manuel Teran to showcase the action sequences, choreographed by Raffaelli. The film made great use of its locales and buildings that were used for Belle’s and Raffaelli’s parkour skills.

As much as many movie viewers may see this as a routine action thriller, Besson has always been known for giving quality entertainment. With the success of The Transporter and Kiss of the Dragon, Besson wrote this film just for Belle and Raffaelli. Belle and Raffaelli both got their starts as stuntmen and bit players, but this film helped put them on the map as worthy lead actors. Both men have the acting skills and the action skills to carry the film and it succeeded. It did so well that a sequel, District B13: Ultimatum was released in 2009 and a U.S. remake, Brick Mansions, which would be the final completed film of late actor Paul Walker, was released in 2014.

The only flaw of the film is that there wasn’t enough villains who had the tendency to match the skills of Belle and Raffaelli. Taha is the sly crime lord who just sits around and lets his men do the work. His number one man, K2, is a big man who relies on two things, his gun and big mouth, to act like the big shot. The other villains are played by parkour artists, but they are there basically to look foolish and get beaten around by Belle and Raffaelli. Another villain comes in the form of a wrestler like guy who absorbs Raffaelli’s kicks and only gets defeated when Belle uses his parkour skills to tie a rope around the big oaf. They needed to have a worthy opponent or two to make some of the action scenes a little more interesting.

Despite the lack of “worthy opponents”, District B13 is still a fun film to watch, especially to see the art of parkour in full effect.


A EuropaCorp/TF1 Production in association with Canal+. Director: Pierre Morel. Producer: Luc Besson. Writers: Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri. Cinematography: Manuel Teran. Editing: Stéphanie Gaurier and Frédéric Thoraval.

Cast: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D’Amario, Bibi Naceri, Dany Verissimo, François Chattot, Nicolas Woirion, Patrick Olivier, Samir Guesmi, Jérôme Gadner.


Shock Wave (2017)

shockwave Hong-kong-icon

Andy Lau becomes the target of a revenge plot as the fate of Hong Kong is in his hands in this Herman Yau-directed action thriller.

J.S. Cheung has risen through the ranks to become one of the most decorated officers of Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit. However, two years ago, he went undercover and worked for a criminal mastermind, Pang Tong, who like Cheung, is known for his skills with explosives. When Cheung helped stop a potential bank robbery, Pang escaped and has vowed revenge on Cheung, who has returned to the EOD unit and has begun a relationship with local teacher Carmen Li.

As part of his plot to seek revenge, Pang returns to Hong Kong and has taken the Cross Harbour Tunnel under siege by having everyone in the tunnel held hostage and threatening to blow it up if his demands are not met. Pang wants Cheung to return to ensure the safety of the hostages by first, forcing him and the police to release his brother Biao from prison. Biao has had a change of heart since Cheung busted him in the mission two years ago and has no interest in seeing his big brother. However, as complications arise, Cheung finds himself with the fate of Hong Kong in his hands.

Herman Yau is truly a force in Hong Kong cinema. His versatility has led him to tackle various genres. For one of his latest films, this action thriller, which he co-wrote with Erica Li, revolves around sealing the fate of the Cross Harbour Tunnel, an underwater connection between Kowloon and Causeway Bay and of course, the hero is someone with a connection to the one responsible for holding the tunnel hostage. Yes, the film does play like a Hong Kong-version of big blockbuster Hollywood action films, but there are some twists and turns set to keep the viewer engaged.

Andy Lau once again shows his prowess as a bankable lead in the role of J.S. Cheung, a member of the EOD who in the film’s opening, finds himself in an undercover investigation which involves infiltrating a criminal known for his expertise in explosives. The villain Pang Tong is well played by Jiang Wu, who seethes revenge for the bust two years ago. In a bold and smart move in the film, the love interest for Cheung is in no way glamorized, but rather an ordinary teacher played well by Song Jia. In their first meeting, Song’s Carmen is seen at a bar completely drunk and tells Cheung after meeting her at her school that she was only there that night because she wanted to see if she still “had it”, but it is clear that the relationship between Cheung and Carmen is not about having it, but is truly about love and caring for each other.

The action sequences are quite a delight to watch. From the vehicle chases to a finale that nearly rivals another Lau vehicle, Firestorm, for an insane shootout that ends with a shocker (no pun intended) of a finale that just boosts up the rating of the film. The opening chase alone is quite a watch as there are explosions involve including a final explosion (for the opening) that nearly sends a car in a tunnel, this becoming the catalyst of the core plot of the film.

Shock Wave is definitely a Hong Kong-equivalent of a blockbuster Hollywood film and who better than Andy Lau to lead the way in this tense thriller. Some notable twists and turns help make this one to definitely check out.


A Universe Entertainment and Infinitus Entertainment Ltd. Production in association with Bona Film Group. Director: Herman Yau. Producers: Andy Lam, Alvin Lam, Jessica Chan, Esther Koo, and Alice Chan. Writers: Herman Yau and Erica Li. Cinematography: Joe Chan and Mandy Ngai. Editing: Azrael Chung.

Cast: Andy Lau, Jiang Wu, Song Jia, Philip Keung, Ron Ng, Babyjohn Choi, Louis Cheung, Wang Ziyi, Felix Wong, Sek Sau, Liu Kai-Chi, Cheung Chun-Kit.

The Foreigner (2017)

theforeigner china-iconuk-icon

Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with some intricate twists in this thriller from the director of Goldeneye and Casino Royale.

Restaurateur Quon Ngoc Minh’s life is forever shattered when his youngest daughter, Fan, is killed in a bombing in the streets of London. Having learned that the men responsible are a group known as the “Authentic IRA”, Quon looks for answers. Watching an interview on television, Quon learns that Irish-born Deputy Marshall Liam Hennessy was once a member of the IRA only to now attempt to promote peace between Ireland and England.

Quon heads to Belfast to meet with Hennessy, asking for the names of the bombers. When Hennessy swears he does not know the names, Quon doesn’t believe him and thus, begins a deadly game between the two. As Quon continues his search for answers through a series of warning “bombings”, Hennessy decides to dispatch his nephew Sean, a former military officer, and other members of his entourage to find Quon. However, some dark secrets within Hennessy’s ranks and political power may arise, making Quon the least of his worries.

Fans who have been wanting to see Jackie Chan tackle something other than his usual shtick will truly get the chance to see it with this film. Chan, usually seen as a comedic martial arts actor whose intricate choreography makes him the legend he is today, gets to bring a range of emotion in the role of Quon Ngoc Minh, a Chinese-born Vietnamese restaurant owner who practically loses everything dear to him when his daughter is killed in the first five minutes of the film. Sporting more grayish hair and looking somber for the first half of the film while shedding tears because he truly has no family left, Quon soon turns into someone not so much seeking revenge, but justice.

However, while the title may focus on Chan’s Quon, the film really amps tension around Pierce Brosnan’s conflicted character of Liam Hennessy. Hennessy’s opening scene sees him with a girl who at first, some will assume is his wife. That is, until his wife calls him. Red flag number one. Two, his ties to the IRA as a former member allows him to attempt to somehow get pardons from his British superiors. Red flag number two. The list of red flags involving Hennessy just keep going, and this leads to a series of events that may pretty much put Hennessy into a corner that even with his political strength, will be unable to back out of with Chan’s Quon being the tip of the iceberg.

What many will find interesting is that the film is quite sparse on action, and becomes more of a political thriller in which double-crosses and twists are inevitable. However, when there is action, that’s when we see Jackie Chan and while there are pieces of what we expect from Chan, some of the action is turned up a few notches. Quon’s first altercation against four of Hennessy’s entourage has him use the environment, a staple in Chan’s arsenal of fight moves. However, in this case, it is amped up quite a bit.

In a two-part sequence, Quon hides in a forest-like area near Hennessy’s countryside safe house and this is where we see Quon use the environment to his full advantage. The big difference is that this is not the Chan you would expect in the first part, using a more grounded military style of action akin to perhaps Rambo while the second part treats the viewer to a very well-choreographed knife fight between Chan and Rory Fleck Byrne, who plays Liam’s military trained nephew.  Of course, this culminates to both Quon and Hennessy going on a total collision course where it is unsure who will get the upper hand until the final few minutes of the film.

The Foreigner may throw off fans in terms of its marketing, but this is truly a thriller that churns out the best performance from Jackie Chan in the last few years and Pierce Brosnan giving it his all as a conflicted man with both looking for the same answers. Despite the sparse action, the film does bring a smooth flow and should truly be checked out. This is not your typical Jackie Chan film, and that for once, is a very good thing!


STX Films, Sparkle Roll Media Corp., Wanda Pictures, and Huayi Brothers present a Fyzz Facility and Arthur Sarkassian production in association with Quidam Studios. Director: Martin Campbell. Producers: Jackie Chan, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Scott Lumpkin, Jamie Marshall, Qi Jianhong, Cathy Schulman, John Zeng, and Arthur Sarkassian. Writer: David Marconi, based on the novel “The Chinaman” by Stephen Leather. Cinematography: David Tattersall. Editing: Angela M. Catanzaro.

Cast: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Orla Brady, Charlie Murphy, Lia Williams, Michael McElhatton, Ray Fearon, Tamia Liu, Dermot Crowley, Rory Fleck Byrne, David Pearson, Rufus Jones, Niall McNamee, Aaron Monaghan, Caolán Byrne, Katie Leung

Interrogation (2016)

interrogation usa-icon

Former WWE superstar Adam “Edge” Copeland finds himself in a very deadly cat-and-mouse game with a formidable enemy in this action thriller.

Lucas Nolan is one of the best FBI negotiatiors in the city with his power of memorization. He is so good that he stopped a bank robber by learning how long the robber takes to shoot and reload his gun. However, while he is at the top of his game, he is about to meet his match. When a mysterious suspect appears at the Federal Building in Minneapolis to inform the front desk clerk about a bomb, the bomb goes off and the man is arrested right away.

What soon ensues is a game that Lucas, who is recommended by his friend Mark, is forced to play with the suspect. Lucas must answer a series of questions that will reveal what is truth and what is a lie. Should he answer correctly, he will learn the location of another bomb in the city. If not, he will be held liable for the death of many. While FBI superior agent Sara Ward is skeptical of Lucas, she is forced to go along with the game while IT expert Becky, receiving a mysterious flashdrive that Lucas had given her after an escape attempt goes wrong, attempts to decrypt the data in hopes to learn who the suspect is and where the bombs are hidden. Will Lucas be able to win this deadly game with a suspect that could truly be his deadliest foe ever?

Here is the thing with WWE Studios’ films. They tend to be a hit or miss, depending on the taste of the action or at times comedy film fan. WWE Studios is primarily known for action films, notably their Marine and 12 Rounds franchises. For their latest action thriller, we have a deadly cat-and-mouse game that in some way could be seen as a counterpart to Countdown, which had WWE Dolph Ziggler look for a child strapped with a bomb where we have a cat-and-mouse game between a top FBI negotiator and a bombing suspect.

Adam Copeland truly drives the film as lead character Lucas Nolan, who not only must deal with the central cat-and-mouse game but also confronts his past as we see a series of flashbacks from how Lucas gained his abilities but the effects of having to live as a homeless teen after his father is jailed for attempting to rob a pawn shop. Canadian actor Patrick Sabongui is also brilliant as the criminal mastermind who forces Lucas into this cat-and-mouse game. The cat-and-mouse game brings a vibe that is similar to the 1999 Hong Kong film Running Out of Time, but only when these two are on screen together, which happens for most of the film as the “game” is a series of questions and riddles that must be answered to seek the locations of the bombs.

While she is given some top billing in the film, it seems that a current WWE superstar, C.J. “Lana” Perry, is not really given enough to do. She plays a computer expert for the FBI who spends most of her time behind the computer attempting to decrypt a flashdrive that was in the criminal’s hands earlier. And for the record, that is Perry’s natural American accent in the film where he character in the squared circle is Russian. Julia Rogers’ Sara Ward comes up as quite an annoyance due to her skepticism of Lucas, causing her to do almost nothing more than spend most of the film berating Lucas any chance she has while Michael Rogers’ Mark tries to be a voice of reason for Lucas.

However, while the film does have a vibe that may seem somewhat standard, there is a final twist that is both unexpected as well as jaw-dropping and ultimately bumps up the film into an above average due to its running time of just under ninety minutes, which works perfect for this film.

Interrogation starts out as a routine cat-and-mouse game with both character driven performances and some performances that are not so great. However, the twist in the finale proves to be something that makes this film a slightly better than average WWE Studios film.


Lionsgate presents a WWE Studios production. Director: Stephen Reynolds. Producer: Michael J. Luisi. Writers: Adam Rodin and Michael Finch. Editing: Paul Herb.

Cast: Adam Copeland, Patrick Sabongui, C.J. Perry, Michael Rogers, Julia Benson, Erica Carroll.