Luc Besson is a man behind many films – directing, producing and writing. This weekend he score the #1 movie at the American box office with his sci-fi auctioneer Lucy. He’s also been the man behind the highly successful Taken franchise as well as they “franchise that’ll never die,” The Transporter. In honor of the French director’s recent success, Pop-Break is introducing a new column — “Three to Watch” where we give you three recommendations for films based on actors, directors, producers, franchises and genres of film that are currently lighting the film world on fire.
Film #1: The Must-See: Leon the Professional
This is Luc Besson’s masterpiece. It’s a movie about love set in a world of cruelty and violence and is lead by three absolutely powerhouse performances. The most famous performance here is from Natalie Portman who made her big screen debut here. She’s an absolute tour de force as the young orphan turned hit girl who falls in love with her mentor/caretaker. Portman, despite her stellar resume, was only able to top this performance when she won the Oscar for Black Swan back in 2010. Then there’s Jean Reno, who many of us have forgotten can act, since he’s gone on to become one of the most steadily cast character actors in the past two plus decades. Reno gives such a simple-yet-complex portrayal of a torn hit man looking for a way out. Then there’s Gary Oldman, my God, there’s Gary Oldman. His portrayal as a drugged out, psychotic, crooked NYPD detective is probably one of his best performances he’s given in his career (outside of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)…and the man is one hell of an actor. He chews scenery here and he is so charismatic that he steals every scene he’s in.
The film, outside of the acting, is a really violent and yet at times, sweet film. The chemistry between Reno and Portman is dazzling. But, it’s the film’s bloody, bloody climax, one that rivals the ending of The Wild Bunch in terms of violence and drama, that makes this movie a classic. It’s absolutely, pun intended, bloody brilliant.
Had the 10 nominee rule been in effect in ’94, this definitely would’ve been nominated, no doubt. Guys, this is must-see stuff, rent immediately.
Film #2: The Forgotten Gem: The Fifth Element
There are some people who hate this movie and there’s a lot of people who’ve never seen this movie, particularly in theaters as evidenced by it’s underperformance at the American box office. However, if you’re a sci-fi fan, you have to watch The Fifth Element.
The film is an absurd yet sublime mixture of high fashion, space adventure science fiction, a smart alecky Bruce Willis film and ultimately, a tale of love and hope. It’s a very weird film — I mean the guy who played Zeus in No Holds Barred is the President for God’s sake, but somehow and someway it works. The special effects work here is way ahead of its time and mixed with the high end fashion, it makes for a dazzling piece of eye candy.
And in the middle of aliens and haute couture is a bleach blonde Bruce Willis. He shouldn’t work here, but he does. He gives his best Bruce Willis-esque performance — he yells, he screams, he’s sarcastic and salty and yet there’s a lovable and humorous quality to him. It’s not your latter day mailed-in Bruce performance, this is more of the post-Pulp Fiction Willis where you were still getting strong performances.
All-and-all, The Fifth Element is the definition of grandiose in so many ways and it’s a film you really have to experience in order to fully appreciate it. And once you do watch it, you’ll kick yourself for taking nearly 20 years to do so.
Film #3: The Cult Classic: District B13:
Remember that movie Brick Mansions that came out this year with Paul Walker, RZA and that other dude? You probably didn’t know it, but Brick Mansions is actually an Americanized remake of the Besson written and produced 2004 French-language film, Banlieue 13. The film was released in America as District B13 and is often referred to as the “parkour movie.” And for good reason. Remember the “other dude” from Brick Mansions? That’s David Belle, star of District B13 and the inventor of parkour.
The film, which is set in 2010 (for some reason), is about the dreaded “District B13” which inhabits all the undesirables in Paris. Belle plays Leito, a folk hero in the district who must team up with a local cop Capt. Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli), a bit of a fighting machine himself, to uncover a government conspiracy aimed at destroying the district.
The plot is kinda whatever, but the action, it’s one of the more unique martial arts/run-and-gun action flicks you’ll ever watch. Belle’s parkour choreography makes for some amazing chase sequences, one in particular where is chased through the district and through, up, over and in between buildings. It’s absolutely breathtaking. The chemistry between Rafaelli and Belle is also pretty solid, so you get a decent buddy movie thrown in between all the chop sockey action.
It’s no Oscar winner, but District B13 is absolutely thrilling and a great, fun rent.
Bill Bodkin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. He can be read weekly on Trailer Tuesday and Singles Party, weekly reviews on Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU and regular contributions throughout the week with reviews and interviews. His goal is to write 500 stories this year. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English and currently works in the world of political polling. He’s the reason there’s so much wrestling on the site and is beyond excited to be a Dad this coming December. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom