Hey, remember this thing?  Well, I’m gonna try something different here in the hopes of giving the Underground a steady throbbing pulse instead of saving everything up for one lengthy money shot (besides, I’m told that readers hate scrolling).  So from now on I’ll throw these up in rabbit-punch fashion, with a quick review, news and/or trailers that are akin to the sort of stuff I’ve covered in the past (check the 2005 archive HERE and last year’s HERE).  I’ve got a massive stack of recent acquisitions and films sent in by readers to keep going for a good while, so I hope to crank out at least a couple of these a week in this style.

For those who might’ve forgotten, the column’s mission statement: to randomly and almost coherently discus new foreign and/or under-the-radar films, various obscure flicks, low-budget indies, and the occasional back-rack “classic”. 

Got an interesting film suggestion? Know of something good in the works? Make an independent film and want to expose yourself? Just want to tell me I’m rubbish? Drop me a line at dave@chud.com.


 In the futuristic French martial arts flick Banlieue 13, a Parisian suburb’s crime rate is so astronomical that the government just considers it a write-off – the area has been walled off, the police are withdrawing and the citizens remaining inside are left to fend for themselves. 

One particular Borough 13 resident named Leito (David Belle) has decided to wage a one-man war on local druglord Taha (Bibi Naceri, brother of Taxi driver Sami Naceri), who is a bit perturbed at the interruption of his business.  With a small army of heavily armed street goons on his trail, Leito makes his escape by scrambling through halls and across rooftops. But Taha kidnaps his feisty (and incredibly sexy) sister for retribution, and Leito ends up in le bastille.  Meanwhile, chopsockey supercop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) is recruited to retrieve a stolen nuclear weapon from Taha’s headquarters, and he only has 24 hours before the device turns Borough 13 into a smoking crater.  Damien reluctantly teams with prisoner Leito, and the mismatched duo make their way to Taha’s stronghold, pound seven bells of crap out of everyone and save the day.

For what Belle and Raffaelli lack in charisma, they compensate with astonishing physical capabilities and a willingness to inflict grievous damage on the stunt crew.  Both character introductions are impressive, with the tattooed Belle (who seems to hate shirts) showcasing his insanely acrobatic skills (he invented the “sport” of Parkour, which basically involves swift movement through urban environments).  Raffaelli (probably best known as the smaller blond “twin” from Jet Li’s Kiss of the Dragon) steamrolls through a casino while taking down a local crime boss, punting skulls and blasting large holes in an endless succession of henchmen.

B13 is pretty fun while it lasts… but it doesn’t last too long (the villain literally makes his exit at the one-hour mark).  Like other recent Luc Besson-penned diet action flicks that he probably writes in a weekend (Wasabi, The Transporter, the Taxi movies), Banlieue 13 is brisk and unencumbered by an excess of story.  At 75 minutes it really could’ve benefited from a few more character moments or at least a couple of extra protracted scenes of pummeling and bloodshed, especially considering the obvious abilities of the two lead actors.  The setting isn’t an especially realized future – nearly everyone wears tanktops and combat vests, and drives cars stolen from The Fast and the Furious. And although the whole scenario is essentially a French facsimile of Escape from New York, Banlieue 13 has no time for sociopolitical statements when there are faces to punch and shoot!


 These guys are putting together a sci-fi indie called smartparts that’s looking pretty fantastic so far.  The story:

A small-time grifter named Rodney Ubay, who having just successfully pulled off a dangerous con, rents a storage cubical in a giant warehouse as a temporary hideout before catching a flight to his buyer. Unfortunately for Rodney, he is not the only one hiding out in this giant warehouse. Several fugitive robots from a discontinued and long forgotten 1950’s military program, have called this storage facility home for a very long time. And one of them, the really big one, seems to have gone insane.

Head to the official site (http://www.smartpartsthemovie.com ) and take a peek at their 4-minute promo clip – I’m hoping they secure finances for a feature, because so far it looks like a complete blast.

 You’ve probably heard the name Tony Jaa being uttered as the next Bruce Lee (or Jackie Chan or Jet Li), and if you haven’t seen the Thai martial arts extravaganza Ong Bak to accept that hype as the ultimate truth, the new bone-snapping, skull-shattering trailer for his next film Tom Yum Goong is now online. 

Check it out RIGHT HERE and wonder no more.