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.


Boone the Bounty Hunter (2017)

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Prepared to get “Boone’d” in this fun action wild ride written by and starring professional wrestler John Hennigan, aka Lucha Underground’s Johnny Mundo.

Reality TV star Boone the Bounty Hunter is known for hunting down celebrities. However, the ratings have gone down and his producer Olivia breaks the sad news to the star that his show has been cancelled. To boost the show’s prospects, Boone decides to take on a real case. Contacting an old friend who works for the Drug Enforcement Agency, Boone gets a case that he may think will relatively easy, but he soon learns that it will not be as easy.

Spoiled brat Ryan Davenport is the son of notorious drug dealer Cole Davenport. After he is wanted for the drug overdose murder of a young woman, he is forced by his father to flee to Mexico. Boone and two members of his team, Denny and Kat, head off to the small city of Vallecitos. When Boone successfully captures Ryan, Kat and Denny find themselves arrested by dirty cops working for Davenport. Boone soon realizes that it is no longer about the show, but caring about the people of the small city, who have been terrorized by the drug lord for years.

Professional wrestler John Hennigan created the titular character and co-produced in addition to starring in the film. When it comes to technical moves, Hennigan is perhaps one of the greatest with his skill set, which meshes martial arts, gymnastics, and parkour. Hennigan has had his share of action roles such as Hercules Reborn and Sinbad and the War of the Furies, which were given not too great ratings amongst film fans. Yet, with his roles as Winter Soldier and Casey Jones in two episodes of the web series Super Hero Beat Down, Hennigan truly had potential and with this film, he truly proves that he can hold his own as his own character, a redemption seeking reality TV star with one-liners who learns the true meaning of justice when he tackles a real case.

Boone’s team consists of Spencer Grammer as Kat, who can hold her own when necessary in the action department; Osric Chau as Denny, the technical expert of the team, and in an extended cameo, MMA legend Quentin “Rampage” Jackson as Jackson. While Jackson takes a back seat, being only used in a true emergency as seen in the third act, Chau and Grammer truly prove themselves to be worthy despite Boone’s original objective to make sure his show gets renewed.

Richard Tyson, known for playing villain characters, continues the trend quite well as drug lord Cole Davenport. He is mostly a mastermind until the final act while former child star Jonathan Lipnicki plays his spoiled rich son, who is forced to go fugitive. Skilled in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, his attempt to stop Boone in a comic relief scene forces the bounty hunter to make fun of him and pull off a wrestling move before the kid is forced into a port-a-potty, where he spends most of the film. Lorenzo Lamas makes for a worthy appearance as a bartender whose scar causes him to not want to fight until he realizes that there could be a chance when Boone decides to go into action to save a young boy he met upon entering Davenport’s town.

The action portion is quite a fun watch, but could do with some better editing in certain pieces. Aside from Hennigan showcasing his pretty awesome parkour skills, he finds himself on the receiving end of not one, but two two-on-one encounters with a pair of brothers working for Davenport. The brothers are played by martial artists and actors Lateef Crowder and T.J. Storm. There is also a nice bar fight in the film where Hennigan gets to mesh some grappling moves with some pretty decent kicks, including a nice taekwondo style kick off the wall. Most of the action is good but could use a little better editing in certain pieces.

Boone the Bounty Hunter is a fun wild action ride highlighted by the performance by John Hennigan as the titular character and the ensemble supporting cast. This is one reviewer who would gladly be “Boone’d” again.


A Hoplite Entertainment/Killion Street Production. Director: Richard Kirbyson. Producers: Brady Romberg and Jonathan Lee Smith. Writers: John Hennigan, Josh Burnell, Franco Movsesian, and Jonathan Perkins. Cinematography: Jeffrey R. Clark. Editing: Ashlee Brookens and Mark David Spencer.

Cast: John Hennigan, Osric Chau, Spencer Grammer, Jonathan Lipnicki, Richard Tyson, Jane Park Smith, Lesley Fera, Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, Lorenzo Lamas, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Dominique Swain, Max Weideman, Lateef Crowder, T.J. Storm.

REVIEW: The Great Challenge (2004)

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2004, UGC/UGC Fox Distribution/Dan Films/TF1 Productions

Julien Seri
Yves Marmion
Philippe Lyon (story and screenplay)
Bruno Guiblet (screenplay)
Julien Seri (screenplay)
Michel Taburiaux
Maryline Monthieux

Williams Belle (Williams)
Châu Belle Dinh (Kien)
Malik Diouf (Kenjee)
Yann NHnautra (Lucas)
Guylain (Yaguy)
Charles Perrière (Logan)
Laurent Piemontesi (Léo)
Elodie Yung (Tsu)
Santi Sudaros (Kitano)
Burt Kwouk (Wong)

The Yamakasi team of parkour experts star in this action film that sometimes has a bit of some ridiculousness but overall, is not that bad of a film.

A group of friends who are trained in the sport of parkour decide to head to Bangkok to open a new school that will help kids learn the skills necessary to learn the art. However, what starts out as an exciting journey turns into a terrifying nightmare for the team when during an impromptu training session finds themselves at odds with a local gang led by master thief Kien. A narrow escapes leads teacer Logan to meet Tsu, Kien’s younger sister. The two are attracted to each other, but Tsu and Kien have major problems.

Kien and Tsu, who are Chinese-French, have stolen a rare dragon statue that belongs to Triad boss Wong. The mastermind behind the job is Yakuza leader Kitano, Wong’s son-in-law, because he wants Kien to think he has a better chance of joining the Yakuza than the Triads. Tsu has grown tired of becoming a criminal and wants Kien to follow the same path. However, a rift is soon likely to happen between the siblings but when Kitano is exposed, the tracers soon find themselves in the middle of the war between both the Yakuza and the Triads.

Reuniting with director Julien Seri after the 2001 film Yamakasi, the group of the same name return for a follow-up that not only highlights their trademark skills in parkour but show them engaged in some fighting skills as they are embroiled in the middle of a turf war in Bangkok. The only major difference between this and its predecessor is that actor Châu Belle Dinh doesn’t join the group as one of the team but is given a more prominent role as a thief whose actions begin the major war that is the central plot of the film.

While the Yamakasi Team take top billing, the film not only belongs to Chau, but much of the focus goes to Charles Perrière as team member Logan who has a romantic interest in Kien’s sister Tsu, played by a film debuting Elodie Yung, who is currently making waves as Elektra Natchios in season two of the Netflix series Marvel’s Daredevil. There are a few subplots that are pretty much throwaways such as member Lucas, played by Yann Hnautra, having to deal with the move to Bangkok affecting his family life; and Williams, played by Williams Belle, visiting his grandfather, a monk in order to somehow better his inner energy for his skills.

The action choreography was done by the duo of Mainland China’s Xiong Xin-Xin and Thailand’s Seng Kawee. Xiong and Seng churn out the action in which the Yamakasi group must not only use their parkour skills but use martial arts to fight. A good subplot in the film involves member Kenjee, played by Malik Diouf, going to a Muay Thai school to train in the sport to help better himself as both a tracer and a fighter should he need to defend himself, which he does. The climactic fight has the entire Yamakasi team with Elodie Yung, a black belt in karate, fighting off against both the Yakuza and the Triads to escape the chaos. It’s quite an inventive fight with the tracers using the environment and their skills to their advantage.

The Great Challenge has its flaws, but is quite an enjoyable film that makes good use of the Yamakasi Team as well as Elodie Yung, who shines in her film debut.




REVIEW: K-20 – The Fiend with Twenty Faces (2008)

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2008, Toho Company/Nippon Television Network/Robot Communications

Shimako Sato
Chikahiro Ando
Takuya Kurata
Kazuyoshi Ishida
Shimako Sato (screenplay)
Soh Kitamura (original novel, “The Story of Nijyumenso”)
Kozo Shibasaki
Ryuji Miwajima

Takeshi Kaneshiro (Heikichi Endo)
Takako Matsu (Duchess Yoko Hashiba)
Toru Nakamura (Detective Kogoro Akechi)
Kanata Hongo (Junior Detective Yoshio Kobayashi)
Jun Kunimura (Genji)
Yuki Imai (Shinsuke)
Takeshi Kaga (Gentleman with Scar)
Toru Masuoka (Inspector Namikoshi)

Three of Japan’s top actors team up for this alternate history action piece that makes some interesting use of parkour-like action set pieces with a science fiction edge to it.

In an alternate 1949, World War II never happened. The United States and the United Kingdom forces have agreed to a peace treaty. Japan still lives under rules by class. Changing occupations is deemed illegal and the willingness to marry whoever you please has been deemed forbidden. Taito, the Imperial Capital, has been under attack by a mysterious masked man known as “K-20”. When K-20 has plans to steal a device created by Niklas Tesla, Detective Akechi is assigned to the case.

Heikichi Endo is a well-known circus performer whose mastery of illusion and acrobatics have wowed audiences. After a show one night, he is approached by a mysterious man who offers him a photography job for a tabloid. He is asked to take photos of Akechi and his chosen fiancee, Duchess Yoko Hashiba, whose father was a good friend of Tesla’s. When Heikichi learns he has been set up by K-20, he escapes and must hone his skills to learn to confront the real K-20. When he saves Yoko from the clutches of the mysterious masked man, she tries to convince her fiancee that Heikichi is innocent. Now, the race is on to find the real K-20 and put an end to his master plan.

Upon seeing this adaptation of a Soh Kitamura novel, one feels a vibe that combines V for Vendetta and even, The Mask of Zorro. Like the former, the film is set in an alternate Japan, where World War II never existed and still lives under hierarchy as well as a mysterious masked person who is causing trouble and is intent on destroying the capital city. The latter comes in terms of its set action pieces, which have a swashbuckling feel to it, but replace swords with parkour.

Takeshi Kaneshiro does quite well as Heikichi Endo, a top notch circus performer who finds himself framed as K-20 and sets out to clear his name the only way possible: match the real K-20 skill for skill. Some of his training sequences have the required comic relief of the film including returning to his mentor with chicken scratches all over his face in one scene. While there isn’t a love interest for our hero, Takako Matsu comes close enough as Duchess Yoko Hashiba, who while being a woman of influence, has aspirations to live a normal life and fly. She and Kaneshiro show great chemistry whether they argue on their differences of opinions to showing a level of respect for each other.

Toru Nakamura is pretty good to watch as Detective Akechi, the investigator who is in charge of the operation to stop K-20 and ultimately helps out the trio. Nakamura starts out as a cold stone cop but shows a more lighthearted side towards the climax. While the identity of K-20 is quite the mystery that needs to be solved, Kaneshiro sees Iron Chef‘s chairman himself, Takeshi Kaga, as the mysterious K-20 and sets out to go after him in a number of action pieces that relies more on acrobatics and parkour with a little dose of fighting, but not as much as one would expect. However, the mysteriousness of the title character makes this quite a watch.

K-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces is a watchable adventure that boasts a great cast, but in all could have been cut down about twenty minutes. However, it is the mystery of K-20 that may make one want to watch this film.