District B13 (Banlieue 13) (2004)

Rating: ★★★½☆

Sometimes I want Cinema with a capital C, and sometimes I just want the escapism that comes with a good action flick. I loved watching this movie for the shear pleasure of witnessing David Belle in motion. Belle is often credited with inventing the sport known as parkour (also referred to as “the art of movement”), where participants jump, vault and climb over obstacles in an exceedingly fluid manner. In this film, set in the near future of a dismal Paris, Belle plays the role of Leito, a young man who grew up in the seedy, lawless District B13, an “Escape from New York” type ghetto run by the criminal underworld. When a neutron bomb gets stolen by one of the criminal kingpins of District B13, Leito is called into service by old friend Damien (stuntman turned actor Cyril Raffaelli), a cop who specializes in deep cover assignments. The thin plot of this movie is all but forgotten and easily forgiven due to the incredible grace and athleticism of its lead actors (Raffaelli is a stuntman/martial artist turned actor), and there is an easy camaraderie between Belle and Raffaelli that makes the clichéd dialog work in the context of the film.

Directed by Pierre Morel (Taken and From Paris with Love) from a screenplay by Luc Besson (director of Angel-A, The Fifth Element, Le Femme Nikita, etc., etc.) and Bibi Naceri, District B13 is 84 minutes of pure, adrenalin filled escapism.

DVD Details:

  • Actors: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D’Amario, Bibi Naceri, Dany Verissimo
  • Directors: Pierre Morel
  • Writers: Bibi Naceri, Luc Besson
  • Producers: Bernard Grenet, Luc Besson, Mehdi Sayah
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen,    NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX), French (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 U.S. and Canada only.
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Magnolia
  • DVD Release Date: September 5, 2006
  • Run Time: 84 minutes

Special Features:

  • “The Making of District B13” featurette
  • Extended Fight Sequence
  • Outtakes

This DVD got rave reviews on Amazon, with an astonishing average of 4.2 out of 5 stars from ninety customer reviews.

La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (1991)

Rating: ★★★½☆

This is the original film that spawned an American remake and a popular television series. Most fans of French films are familiar with writer/director Luc Besson (Angel-A, Taken, From Paris with Love), and although it wasn’t his first film this is the movie that put him on the map. Besson is one of the most talented directors working in film today, and the action genre is his canvass of choice.

Anne Parillaud stars as the title character, a young woman so broken by the path her life has taken that she’s nothing more than a wild animal (in the opening scenes a strung-out Nikita robs a drugstore and kills a police officer). Sentenced to life in prison, she is made to look like a suicide before being enrolled in assassin school, courtesy of a secret government program developed to train professional killers. Nikita is deemed to have the proper physicality, moral ambiguity, and malleability to become a human weapon, controlled by her masters at the program.

As the movie progresses so does Nikita. Her initial resistance and defiance towards her handlers gives way to acceptance of her new life, she learns how to handle a gun, martial arts (Anne Parillaud trained in Judo for four months in preparation for this role), and in a cameo by Jeanne Moreau, is instructed on the finer parts of presenting herself as an attractive young woman. Nikita’s real transformation begins after her training is complete. While awaiting her next assignment she falls in love with a man who knows nothing of her true past, and Nikita’s awakening as a human being capable of love and kindness changes everything.

Also starring Jean Reno, this is a notch above the typical action/thriller. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, it is highly recommended.

DVD Details

  • Actors: Anne Parillaud, Marc Duret, Patrick Fontana, Alain Lathière, Laura Chéron, Jean Reno
  • Directors: Luc Besson
  • Writers: Luc Besson
  • Producers: Luc Besson, Claude Besson, Mario Cecchi Gori, Patrice Ledoux, Vittorio Cecchi Gori
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dubbed, DVD, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 U.S. and Canada only.
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: July 1, 2003
  • Run Time: 118 minutes

Special Features

  • “The Sound of Nikita” featurette
  • “Revealed: The Making of La Femme Nikita” featurette
  • Programming Nikita: interactive map
  • Stills, poster galleries, and more

This DVD got rave reviews on Amazon, with a better than 4 star average out of 5 stars from over one hundred customer reviews.