Cyril Raffaelli

District B13 (2004)

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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.


Black and White – The Dawn of Assault (2012)




This prequel to the 2009 series brings back Mark Chao while Huang Bo provides some comic relief as the bumbling gangster who teams up with the heroic cop. The good thing is, you don’t need to see the series to get this film.

Wu Ying-Xiong is a young rookie detective who has just one minor problem. He tends to be violent-prone and what started out as a bust for a simple robbery turns into a major story that forces him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The result forces him off the field. However, when he discovers a dead body in the trunk of a car in an accident, he begins to wonder what happened and why. However, that only is the beginning as Wu’s world is about to be turned upside down.

Xu Dafu is a veteran member of the Sanlian Triad gang. He holds one million dollars for his boss, who is called on an emergency meeting to Vietnam and will return in five days. Xu unwisely decides to make a deal in selling diamonds so he can finally retire with the help of crippled gangster Yuan. When the deal goes terribly wrong, Wu just happens to be at the scene and he crosses paths with Xu. In the midst, both the money and diamonds are missing. Wu and Xu reluctantly must team up to find both items, but find themselves hunted down by the SIS, the Sanlian Triads, and a band of mercenaries.

If you are looking for a straightforward plot, this might not be your cup of tea as Tsai Yueh-Hsun, the director of the original Black and White series throws a bunch of kinks and twists in the story that it just becomes brain-scrambling at a certain point. You have to wait until halfway through the film to pretty much get it. However, if action is what you’re looking for, then this is a wild and fun ride that takes advantage of its near two-and-a-half hour running time.

Mark Chao, who starred in the original series, returns as maverick cop Wu Ying-Xiong. As this is a prequel, Wu is a rookie cop who gets himself in hot water when in the film’s first opening-credit scene, is busting a robbery only to go a little too far. He is clearly a loose cannon, but doesn’t realize he is a loose cannon if that makes sense. However, while he is suspended from field duty work, he finds himself immersed in an investigation by chance and takes advantage of that even when he is told to follow orders.

Huang Bo, who played the mischievous Monkey King in Stephen Chow’s recent Journey to the West, plays the comic foil to Wu’s hard-nosed cop. As gangster Xu, Huang’s flair for being somewhat of a goofball meshes well with Chao. However, it is Xu who gets himself in trouble when he takes it upon himself to make a bad and potentially fatal decision when he decides to conduct business while his boss is out of town and for what? To impress a club hostess he’s always liked. One can guess how that situation turns out when he tells her his intentions.

One can only wonder what model-turned-actress Angelababy was doing in this film. She just doesn’t seem to enjoy being there and as Fan Ning, she is there because she is helping the unlikely duo at the most dire of times, but that’s pretty much it. Terri Kwan is the aforementioned club hostess Xu likes and well, as mentioned, when he reveals his intentions, you can guess how that goes. Leon Dai plays Jabbar, the middleman in the botched deal who attempts to make up for it by helping the duo out when they need him most. Alex To plays the SIS officer in charge who resorts to extreme methods to capture Wu and Xu, questioning whether he is one of the bad guys to begin with. Ken Lin is pretty wicked in the film as Tong, a member of the Sanlian Triads who is very nasty with a knife and has a smile on his face that can match perhaps that of the Joker in the Batman comics.

As mentioned, the plot is simply a device for the action sequences, which is made up of some car chases, firepower, and hand-to-hand combat akin to a kickboxing style but pumped up. The hand-to-hand fights are pretty well done under the supervision of both former Jackie Chan Stunt Team leader Nicky Li and the French wunderkind that is Cyril Raffaelli. Raffaelli, who many will remember has the fast kicking blonde twin in Kiss of the Dragon and for his performances in District B13 and its sequel, brings his amazing knowledge of fight choreography in some frenetic scenes. To bring some comedy in one of the fights, one such fight scene has Wu and Xu handcuffed to each other and engage in fighting a well-groomed, business-suited mercenary. While Wu has the skills, Xu is more the punching bag and this makes for a pretty decent comic fight. There are obviously some wire assistance in some stunts, but it doesn’t go overboard and actually looks decent here.

If you like action sequences and don’t care much about a straightforward storyline, you might enjoy Black and White: The Dawn of Assault. The fact you have to wait halfway through the film to understand the story can be mind-boggling, but the action in some aspect does make up for that.


A Hero Pictures Production in association with Prajna Works Co. Ltd. Director: Tsai Yueh-Hsun. Producer: Crystal Yu. Writers: Kelly Chen and Tsai Yueh-Hsun. Cinematography: Mark Lee. Editing: Light Hung.

Cast: Mark Chao, Huang Bo, Angelababy, Terri Kwan, Leon Dai, Alex To, Jack Kao, Ken Lin, Dean Acconci, Julio Acconci, Ryan Snyman.