Archive for the Cyril Raffaelli Category

Review: District 13: Ultimatum (2009)

Posted in Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Luc Besson with tags , , on August 2, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, MC Jean Gab’1, Elodie Yung, Philippe Torreton, Daniel Duval

Fight Choreography by Cyril Raffaelli

Directed by Patrick Alessandrin

Luc Besson produced a hit with the original District B13, which gave perhaps the best showcase of parkour (free-running) in film to date. The film revolved around uptight cop Damien Tomaso (Raffaelli), who must get into a walled-off slum district in Paris to stop a local drug lord from selling a nuke, one that he received unbeknownst to him from members of the government themselves in an attempt to wipe out the population of District B13, the only way they believe they can eradicate the bad elements–by wiping everyone out. Damien succeeded, with the help of gang leader Leito (Belle), who was looking to save his sister from the drug lord. At the end the French government promised to take down the walls and rebuild the post office and schools. Damien promised he would make sure the government kept their word.

That didn’t exactly go as expected…

Fast forward to three years later, and District 13 is now as jacked up as ever, even worse as new gangs run the city. Leito now detonates bombs to create holes in the giant wall, and, in a fun opening chase, draws the ire of the police. Damien, meanwhile, is still doing whatever it takes to get the bad guys, even dressing up as a transvestite in order to get close to one, but finds his success a double-edged sword as he is set up by DISS (The French version of the FBI, I suppose) to take the fall for drugs found in his apartment. At the same time, the DISS murders two police officers, and then set the car with the bodies nearby a local gang hideout in District 13. What they don’t know is that a group of youths recorded the murders, and attempt to get the proof into the hands of Leito, who must break Damien out of jail first, before gathering all of the gangs, one in particular led by the beautiful but deadly Tao (Yung) to give a final assault on the Capital building in Paris where a reluctant President is being goaded by his military commanders and the head of DISS to fire a missles from attack choppers to destroy the corrupt and “evil” District 13. Damien and Leito must fight their way to the President, but are they wanting to stop the President or help him destroy District 13?…

This is a much bigger film in many respects from the original, and the story is tighter, but there were characters like K2 and Taha and Lola from the first film that I really missed in this one, and the void they leave isn’t really filled. Not that there would be much time for that as Patrick Alessandrin keeps things moving at a brisk pace, moving even faster than the first film, hitting many of the story beats of the original, perhaps too much. The opening fight between Rafaelli and the club thugs over a painting is fun but not as humorous as the opening of District B13 in the illegal casino hall. The same goes for David Belle’s first run, where the police chase him, isn’t the jaw-dropper that the run in the first film was, but they make up for it later with an extended chase across rooftops that surely caused many of the stuntmen to pay their chiropractor or massage therapist extra, and Cyril has a great fight versus the police in the scene where he tries to escape the police station. Bigger is the word here, and the finale, where you see dozens of parkour practitioners scaling the walls of the capital building is a site to see. Rafaelli and Belle inhabit the skins of their characters again with ease, and MC Jean Gab’1 is a lot of fun as well, but Elodie Yung almost steals the film away as Tao. She’s a tattooed deadly beauty, with long ponytailed hair that have blades attached to the ends, which she uses rope-dart style to fight her opponents. Tao would’ve made an awesome evil Bond girl!

The fights, once again choreographed by Cyril, very much have a late 80’s, early 90’s Jackie Chan style about them. It’s both playful and painful to watch, as stuntmen bounce off of a bunch of things, and sometimes a few things in the same fall. The fight versus the police officers is the best yet, and Cyril keeps showing everyone that he needs to have more films of his own!  David Belle’s parkour suffers a bit, as some of the stunts are camera trickery and special effects, but enough of it is real so it didn’t bother me much. It just didn’t seem necessary as David Belle’s running is enough of a special effect.

As an aside, I don’t care what the story calls for, in no way does Cyril Rafaelli look that female from behind during the club scenes at the beginning. It’s just wrong. That whole scene is ten pounds of wrong.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Cyril Raeffelli channels Jackie Chan-style fight choreography in some scenes, but is able to pull it off, playfulness intact.

STUNTWORK: (9) The stunt men put their work in here, falling a lot and bouncing off of various pieces of walls and furniture, and the parkour chase scenes are great as well.

STAR POWER (7): Neither Cyril Raeffelli nor David Belle’s careers have taken off as much as it would’ve been expected, which is disappointing. Elodie Yung appears to be getting more roles, and will star as Jinx in GI Joe: Retaliation next year.

FINAL GRADE: (8) District 13 Ultimatum is a worthy follow-up to the surprise hit District B13, and parkour and martial arts has never looked better.

NEXT: Jang Dong Gun, Kate Bosworth and Geoffrey Rush take on Ti Lung in The Warrior’s Way!

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Review: Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

Posted in Chui Kuo (also Philip Kwok), Cyril Raffaelli, Mark Dacascos with tags , on June 5, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Samuel Le Bihan, Marc Dacascos, Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci

Fight Choreography by Philip Kwok

Directed by Christophe Gans

Someone had the audacity to take one part French period costume political drama, mix it with a romance, tie it into the French Revolution…and top it off with one part monster movie and one part martial arts, and without a doubt there is no way this should’ve worked, but damn it all if it does, and brilliantly so.

The film begins in France circa 1764, in the town of Gevaudan, where a beast has been killing the peasants for weeks. News of the attacks make their way to Paris, where the King dispatchs an investigator, the Royal Taxidermist Gregoire de Fronsac (Le Bihan) and his Native American companion Mani (Dacascos) who quickly get embroiled in the drama surrounding the family of De Morangias but find a friend in Marquis Thomas d’Apcher, and they will need them as there are not many they can trust, particularly when Fronsac gets closer to Marianne De Morangias, which draws the ire of her brother Jean-Francois (Cassel) who harbors quite a few dangerous secrets of his own, and add to this a mysterious prostitute Sylvia (Bellucci) and before long Fronsac and Mani are faced with dangers far beyond that of just the beast, who may not be just a mindless animal, but a political tool…

The film style lets itself be known right from the start as it begins with an attack by the beast and a fight between Mani and some locals. The story does a good job of introducing its multitudes of characters, and the beast’s attacks are brutal. The special effects done for the beast isn’t the latest and greatest CGI, but is good enough. They do a good job of hiding the beast for as long as possible Jaws style, and it works. Samuel Le Bihan plays Fronsac with charm that hides just how dangerous a man he really is, (and hot damn in one scene he proves it as he infiltrates the stronghold of the hunters and just goes all Charles Bronson on them) and while his part is mostly silence, Marc Dacascos gives his best performance here, and brings a badass grace (if there is such a thing) to the role, Monica Bellucci brings out tons of femme fatale sexiness to the role of Sylvia, and Vincent Cassel plays a great villain who becomes more unhinged and the film goes on. All of the other actors look like they stepped out of Masterpiece Theater, meaning they were exactly what they needed to be for the story to work. Kudos to Gans for making all of this work!

The fight choreography by Philip Kwok (real name Chui Kuo, veteran of films like the Ten Tigers of Kwangtung, Shaolin Rescuers, Crippled Avengers, Invincible Shaolin and the Five Deadly Venoms) starts off simple, but the fight choreography becomes more complex and exciting as the film goes on, perfectly mimicing the pacing of the story. Dacascos has his best onscreen fights since Drive, and Le Bihan also responds well and has quite a few good fight scenes himself, and Vincent Cassel is able to hang with the speed of the choreography as well. An incredible job done by all involved.

Christophe Gans makes what is still the only French Revolution-martial arts-monster film, and he found a way to make it all work beautifully.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Extremely well done. Philip plays to the strengths of his actors, and is able to create fast and fluid fight scenes. His most impressive work was in making Samuel Le Bihan look almost as good as Dacascos, which is no small feat. Marc is at his very best here.

STUNTWORK: (8) The stuntmen–and women–showed their stuff, and performed their side of the fight choreography well. Cyril Raffaelli (District B-13) served as one of the stuntmen, and the quality of their work is well shown.

STAR POWER: (9) Marc Dacascos never really became the star he should’ve, and this film is his best overall film. Vincent Cassel would go on to make some Hollywood films like Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen, and Black Swan, and Monica Bellucci would star in a slew of films like the Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, and Shoot ‘Em Up.

FINAL GRADE: (8)  A film that is two parts facts and one LARGE part fiction, it’s a fun mish-mash of genres that filmmakers need to take chances on more often. Easily Marc Dacascos’ best overall film.

NEXT: Jason Yee, Lateef Crowder, Sasha Grey and Ron Yuan fall into mystery with The Girl from the Naked Eye!

Review: Tekken (2010)

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Cung Le, Cyril Raffaelli, Gary Daniels, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Reviews, Roger Huerta with tags , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jon Foo, Ian Anthony Dale, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (CHT), Kelly Overton, Gary Daniels, Lateef Crowder, Roger Huerta, Cung Le, Tamalyn Tomita and Luke Goss

Fight Choreography by Cyril Raffaelli

Directed by Dwight Little

Tekken is yet another stab at adapting a fighting video game into a movie in the mold of Mortal Kombat, once again using a relative unknown in the main role and surrounding him with a mix of decent actors and martial artists. Directed by Dwight Little (Rapid Fire) Tekken does a much better job in many areas than MK did.

The film begins sometime in the future, where large multinational corporations pretty much take over the world and run things. This group is known as the Iron Fist, which really should have set off warning bells in a bunch of folks, but for whatever reason didn’t. The United States is ruled by the Corporation Tekken, whose CEO, Heihachi Mishima (CHT), holds a tournament once every few years, the King of the Iron Fist Tournament, or Tekken, ‘cause the name sounds badass. Outside of Tekken City itself is known as the Anvil, where the majority of people live day-to-day, and the gangs rule all (kinda like Detroit. Just kidding, Detroit-ians!) Here is where Jin Kazama (Foo) works as a courier for the resistance, delivering high-tech equipment he’s probably had to steal, but he’s good at martial arts and parkour, so he usually survive his excursions, in a job that doesn’t sit well with his mother Jun (Tomita) who wants her son to think of other things besides earning enough money to live in Tekken City. Her wishes will fall to dust when she is killed in a Jackhammer raid by Heihachi’s son Kazuya (Dale), an ambitious man who feels his time has come to take over the company, and holds a dark secret.  Jin, with the help of fight manager Steve Fox (Goss) enters the tournament in order to fight his way to Heihachi and Kazuya, so he can take his revenge, but standing in his way is the current champion Bryan Fury (Daniels) a half-cyborg who hides this fact so he cannot be disqualified from the ring, and uses his superior body to mow his way through all opponents. Soon Jin finds that there is much more at stake than his thirst for revenge, as an entire nation looks to him for salvation…

Tekken succeeds in many respects where MK failed by having all of the fights be traditional martial arts contests, with no special effects and few wires. They didn’t feel the need to make sure each character pulls off their signature moves from the game, and while the game story is simply there to give some background between fights, Tekken does a good job of adapting that story within the context of a film.

Jon Foo does a good job as Jin. If you’ve seen him in his fight versus Tony Jaa in The Protector (he was the swordsman in the temple fight) you know he’s good, and he doesn’t disappoint. His acting starts off clunky, but improves as the film goes on. His acrobatics is fantastic, and he brings his all to each fight scene, of which he has many. He’s still a young man, and I expect greater things from him down the road. He’s got the looks and the martial arts skills and acrobatics. He just needs the right starring vehicle.

CHT is his royal evilness as always, and it’s funny that he’s played the main villain in the two major fight video game adaptations, this and Mortal Kombat. The man likes his video games! Gary Daniels does a great job as the arrogant jackass Bryan Fury, and even at his age can still bring the goods. Between this and the Expendables it’s been a pretty good run lately for Daniels. Cung Le also stars in what I believe is his first film, and he does a good job in a limited appearance. He’s currently working on his first full-on martial arts film, and his appearance here bodes well for that film. Luke Goss brings a cynical edge to the film as Steve Fox, and Ian Anthony Dale is a menacing Kazuya.

My lone problem with the film is that there are still too many actors who play fighters who in reality don’t know any martial arts. While Dale plays a good Kazuya, he doesn’t know any martial arts, but he is the dramatic final fight of the film, and the most disappointing.  The women are all there merely as eye candy, and none of them seem to know anything, even though Cyril Raeffaelli (District B-13) does a good job making them look as if they do. Dammit, since Cyril did the choreography, would it have been too much to ask for him to be a fighter in this film?  Lateef Crowder is showing up everywhere nowadays, but can he not get his ass kicked in every film he appears in? Here, Undisputed 3 and The Protector, he just gets owned, even thought he does get to pull off some awesome capoeira moves.

Tekken does a much better job in many respects than Mortal Kombat, but still suffers from having too many characters that need to have their “scenes” and the film has moments where are some quick-cut edits of fights, which drives me insane! Other than that, a fun b-movie style fight film.

(on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Cyril does a good job with everyone, especially during the Jin versus Rojas fight, and the fight between Jin and Bryan Fury. He does an even better job with the non-martial artists. He could have had even more elaborate fights if not for that.

STUNTWORK: (7) They did a good job, especially making a lot of folks look good.

STAR POWER: (7) Jon Foo, Cung Le, CHT, Gary Daniels, Luke Goss, Lateef Crowder and more really prop this film up. Jon may be poised for great things, and the same can be said for Cung Le and Roger Huerta. This grade could go up in the future.

FINAL GRADE: (7) A bit better than Mortal Kombat, this is a fun b-movie film that does a good job adapting a video game, which is an accomplishment all on its own. The sky’s the limit for Jon Foo.


Review: Kiss of the Dragon (2001)

Posted in Cyril Raffaelli, Jet Li, Luc Besson, Reviews with tags , on September 6, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jet Li, Cyril Raffaelli, Tcheky Karyo, Bridgette Fonda

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed By Chris Nahon

After dealing with several films from the Silver/DMX/Andrej Bartkowiak disasters, and hearing about how fans were a bit miffed that all of those films had him inexplicably dangling from wires and computer effects for no damn reason, Jet came up with an idea for a martial arts film that would allow him to get back to basics, and Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita) took his idea and wrote a script, hired one of his cohorts and produced, and thus came Kiss of the Dragon.

The film opens as Jian (Li) a chinese secret agent, finds himself in Paris, France to help the police capture a dangerous chinese arms dealer who is waiting in a posh hotel room for his contact. Jian’s contact in France is a police chief simply named Richard played smarmily (is that even a word?)well by Tcheky Karyo. Soon Jian finds that nothing is what it seems when Richard kills the arms dealer and tries to frame Jian, who is able to escape with a video tape implicating Richard in a fantastic scene that mixes practical stuntwork and some good fight scenes courtesy of Corey Yuen. The fights in the laundry room alone is better than any of Jet’s other American film fights combined.

After he escapes he makes his way to a shop that sells rice chips, but is really a front for Jian’s contact in Paris. He heads there to figure out what to do next. Meanwhile, Jessica, one of the prostitutes who went to see the arms dealer, turns out to be Richard’s woman, so to speak, because he’s holding her daughter hostage so he can make some money whoring her out. Yep, nice guy, isn’t he? So her pimp dumps her on prostitute row-just where the shop Jian’s staying in is located.

Jian goes to meet the assistant to the Chinese Ambassador, who also happens to know Jian and has some idea of the trouble he’s really in. They meet on a restaurant boat only to be ambushed by Richard’s men in an attempt to get the tape back. They kill the assistant, and Jian attempts to escape in once again another great fight scene, in the kitchen below all the way to the glass roof above.

Afterward the shenanigans with Jessica slow the film down, not too much, but you’ll notice it here. After another great fight scene between Jian and the pimp’s enforcer, Jian and Jessica escape and find that their goals are the same person for different reasons, and they form a partnership in order to get her daughter and for Jian to get Richard, and the entire story comes to a climax in the police station itself, as Jian fights off a room full of police officers with batons and then the big finale, an old school martial arts duel between himself and Richard’s main fighter (Raffaelli) in a glorious fight to the finish. Jain finally comes face to face with Richard for the final time, and then you’ll understand what the title of the film means…

This film is a breath of fresh air after the cavalcade of horrid American films Jet’s done. Luc Besson is a fan of Asian martial arts films, and it shows in every frame of film. He understands how to do it right. Director Chris Nahon placed the camera perfectly during the fight scenes. Gone are the quick edited scenes and shitty music-by the way, yes, it does have a Mystical song at the end, but dammit that song matches the fight perfectly and I can’t imagine another song in that spot. The song was there because it fit the scene, not to sell CD’s. Jet’s previous films have sold enough DMX albums…

Welcome back to good films, Jet!

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Well, look at that, someone finally woke Corey Yuen up and told him to choreograph, dammit! The fights are great across the board, and build up just as they should, and the final fight with Cyril Rafaelli is what we were wanting to get from Russell Wong and Mark Dacascos in Jet’s previous films, and we got cheated, but not here!  Bravo, Corey!

STUNTS: (8) The stuntmen did a really good job here, and sold all of their scenes, and they were game for more complex fighting.

STAR POWER: (8) Jet finally looks like the Jet we know from films like High Risk and Once Upon A Time in China, and Cyril Raffaelli really caught the public’s attention in his short scenes and fantastic end fight with Jet. Tcheky Karyo is great as usual, and Bridgette Fonda did a fairly good job.

FINAL GRADE: (9) The best of Jet’s U.S. output, even though I don’t really think it counts since it was really a French production. Either way, Jet and Corey woke up and listened to their REAL fans, and made a film to be proud of. I hope Jet sent a postcard to Joel Silver telling him to take his computers and rap stars and go suck it! Hell, I might still do that…

Review: District B-13 (2005)

Posted in Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Luc Besson, Reviews with tags , on July 21, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle

Fight Choreography by Cyril Raffaelli

Directed by Pierre Morel

It’s always refreshing to be introduced to a new style of martial art or some new form of movement. The latest craze is a style of free running called Parkour, created by Frenchman David Belle, one of the stars of the film. Not surprising, the craze really started after this film was released, produced by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) and directed by Pierre Morel (Taken).

The film opens in Paris in the year 2010, where the roughest neighborhood, District B13, has been walled off from the rest of the city so the violence doesn’t bleed out into the rest of Paris. The opening is great as the camera darts all over B13 until we are introduced to Leito (Belle) a gang lord who does what he can to protect the community from drug lords like the biggest one, Taha. He takes the dope off of the streets, literally. We meet him after he as just ripped off Taha of a case of drugs, which causes K2, Taha’s lead charismatic henchman to show up with a group of thugs to get the drugs back. He outsmarts Leito’s men (which isn’t a difficult feat) and goes after Leito, and we are treated to the first parkour scene, a brilliant scene, perhaps really the first of its kind on film, and is simply a brilliant staging of camera and movement. You’ll be breathless at the end.

Afterward we meet Taha, and right from the Big Book of Villany he kills one of his own men for not having an idea on how to capture Leito. K2 comes up with the plan to kidnap Leito’s sister Lola in exchange for the money for the drugs Leito destroyed. Leito kinda figured they would do this, and ninjas his way into Taha’s place and takes Taha hostage just as Lola is delivered to him. Together with Taha they escape, chased by his goons all the way to the police station, only to find that the police are on their way out of B13.The lead cop frees Taha but captures Leito because he wants to return home os he can retire peacefully. Taha also takes Lola with him, and in return for his betrayal Leito gives the cop an early retirement present. A very permanent one.

Fast forward 6 months later, and we meet Damien (Raffaelli) an undercover cop in the middle of bringing down an illegal gambling ring. There is great humor here as the mob boss wonders why it is he can’t hire college educated henchmen, instead of the regular doofuses. FINALLY! I’ve waited years to see one baddie vent about this, and someone actually did it. He even said in this economy it should be easy. Right again! Before long he wishes he had thought of all this sooner, as Damien reveals himself, and the fight scenes in the casino are terrific, with Raffaelli showing the promise he displayed in Jet Li’s Kiss of the Dragon.

Afterward we get to the meat of the story: the government lost a small nuclear bomb while the top secret truck carrying it was going through B13. The bomb has found its way to Taha, who opened the case, starting a 24 hour timer before the bomb explodes, killing thousands within the district. Damien will need to go undercover using Leito as his guide to find Taha and the bomb. Leito is currently in prison for killing that cop, and Damien must first break him out, which he does as they are being transported to another facility. Leito gets Damien into B13, but figures out quickly that he’s a cop, and leaves his ass in the middle of gang territory after their van crushes the sports car of the lead gangster in the area. Damien eventually gets out of it, and finds Leito, and the two form an uneasy alliance once the stakes are laid out.

They allow themselves to be captured by K2, who takes them back to Taha, who wants 20 million in exchange for the bomb. To complicate matters, Taha has attached the bomb to a missile he had lying around(!) and has chained Lola to the bottom of the missle with a gas canister next to her. Damien tricks Taha into giving the account numbers for his money in the Camen Islands, but the police will not give up the money, but Damien doesn’t tell Taha this, nor does he tell Taha that he police went in to all of his accounts and cleaned him out. Damien and Leito escape after this, and head for the bomb. Once his accountant tells him about his money disappearing, we finally get the consequences of the whole “you failed to kill/capture so and so, so I’ll kill one of you to prove a point of how evil I am.” There should be an amendment in the Big Book of Villany that says you can do this-so long as you have the money to pay everyone else.Taha didn’t, and even K2 turns his back on him as his former henchmen blow him into a thousand pieces of little Taha. K2 finds himself the appointed leader, and sends the men out to get Leito and Damien. How often do you see the lead henchman become the main man? Hell, Darth Vader had the force and the Emperor still didn’t let his ass get near the Big Chair!

After another great Parkour chase they get to the building, but once they enter they find themselves having to contend with a final present Taha left them, a behemoth with the limited strength of the Hulk, but really, really slow. After they take him out, they get to the bomb and find themselves fighting each other to decide the fate of B13. Even though David Belle doesn’t know martial arts, the fight is not too bad, as each man uses he beliefs to fight to disable/maybe enable the bomb. Eventually the men who sent Damien on this mission get a surprise of their own when both men turn up on their doorstep.

Damien promises Leito that things will change, but we know that’s not true since District B13: Ultimatum has come out…

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (6) I had wished there was more fighting with Cyril. He’s proven to be a great martial artist and I want to see more of him. What was there was great. There just needed to be more of it.

STUNTS: (8) Great stuntwork in the fights and parkour scenes. The falls were well done, Hong Kong style, and the parkour was breathtaking.

STAR POWER: (6) It remains to be seen. Cyril and David can either become major action stars or fade into oblivion from here. Cyril has been a thug in many films, and here he finds a film to finally showcase his skills. We need to see more of this guy!

FINAL GRADE: (7) A good film that introduced Parkour to the masses, and even action heroes like James Bond would find himself chasing guys like these around. Score another martial arts hit for producer Luc Besson.