District B13
(Banlieue 13)





District B13 (Banlieue 13)
Country of origin: France
Language: French
Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D'Amaro, Bibi Naceri, Dany Verissimo

Synopsis: It is the year 2010. In this dystopic vision of the future, certain slums just outside of Paris have been walled off and isolated due to their "high risk" status.

Infested with drugs, rampant crime, and bad hairstyles, one particularly troublesome area called District B13 is reminiscent of the island of Manhattan from John Carpenter's Escape From New York, only more French (and possibly with better food).

Leïto (David Belle) is a well-meaning punk who's in trouble with Taha (Bibi Naceri), District B13's tyrant drug kingpin. After stealing and then destroying a large stash of Taha's dope, Leïto escapes the drug lord's armed goons in a brilliant building-to-building chase scene that has to be seen rather than described.

In this sequence, David Belle, who's a stuntman in real life, exhibits the art of Parkour (aka Free Running). Parkour is a sport invented by Belle himself, in which the practitioner uses the abilities of the human body to efficiently and creatively maneuver through physical obstacles.

On second thought, forget that description and just watch this David Belle video.

Another vivid example of free running takes place in the 2006 Bond film Casino Royale when Bond (Daniel Craig) chases down a bomb maker (Sèbastien Foucan). Foucan also happens to be a good pal of David Belle.

Anyway, on with the review.

Soon after Leïto's excape, Taha kidnaps Lola (Dany Verissimo), Leïto's feisty younger sister. Although Leïto manages to rescue her, their escape is thwarted by cowardly police officials who refuse to enforce the law, thus allowing Taha to go free.

Lola is recaptured, and Leïto ends up in the slammer.

Six months later...

Taha gets hold of an experimental neutron bomb, and accidentally arms it. The French government, upon receiving this alarming news, send in Captain Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli), the best cop and martial arts expert in Paris.

More bad-ass than Nicolas Sarkozy at a cheese party, Damien has less than 24 hours to locate and diffuse the bomb. But to make his way through District B13 in one piece, Damien must convince the incarcerated Leïto to help him.

And so, it's a race against time to save Lola and millions of other lives before Paris, like Jacque Chirac's credibility, goes up in smoke...



The Good: Clocking in at a mere 85 minutes, District B13 is a great example of tight, fast-paced storytelling. The action is creative and highly entertaining, the stunts are cool, and there's nothing in this action movie that doesn't need to be there.

David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli are both amazing stuntmen/athletes, and without taking themselves too seriously, they pull off some great moments that are beyond most conventional Hollywood action filcks.

With a slick techno soundtrack to boot, District B13 may be short, but it's short and to the point and feels complete.

The Bad: Some of the action is a bit far-fetched, but at least it never gets to the point of where it insults your intelligence (not mine, anyway). Also, a lot of the actors have silly fashion taste, but they at least get their asses kicked for it.

Who would like this movie: Whether you're an action movie lover with the attention span of a hyperactive donkey, or looking to broaden your cinematic horizons, this foreign film is for you. It's a visual energy drink!

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang



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