District 13: Ultimatum
Banlieue 13: Ultimatum

District 13

District 13: Ultimatum (Banlieue 13: Ultimatum)
Made in: France
Language: French
Director: Patrick Alessandrin
Starring: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Daniel Duval, Pierre-Marie Mosconi, Philippe Torreton, MC Jean Gab'1, Elodie Young
Year: 2009

Synopsis: Supercop Damien Tomasso (Cyril Raffaelli) and parkour guy Leïto (David Belle) team up again on the mean streets of Paris, France. Once again, the setting is District B13, a multiethnic, crime-ridden ghetto that's been walled off from the rest of civilization.

This time, a corrupt government official named Walter Gassman (David Duval) is hatching a conspiracy to cause civil strife between the gangsters who occupy the neighborhood and the authorities. His hopes are that the situation will get so bad that the president (Philippe Torreton) will authorize the military to evacuate all of B13's civilians before blowing the whole place up.

What is Gassman's endgame? Why, he's in collusion with real-estate moguls who have plans to build new skyscrapers over the smoldering remains of the ghetto. Aiding Gassman in his fiendish plot is Roland (Pierre-Marie Mosconi), a high-ranking officer in the French Federal Police.

But Damien and Leïto are on to them, and our heroes quickly spring into action to help District B13 maintain its drug-infested, impoverished purity rather than see their beloved neighborhood become a place of economic development and prosperity...

Okay, maybe that's not how director Patrick Alessandrin wants you to see things. But the above description is perfectly justified.

The Good: This movie had a great trailer. Other than that, the first twenty-five to thirty minutes (which are unrelated to the overall plot) are the best part. Also, most of the martial arts sequences featuring Cyril Raffaelli are fun, and there's some snappy dialogue throughout.

The Bad: Compared to the first movie, David Belle's stuntwork just looked sluggish. It didn't even seem as though he was trying all that hard; all he pretty much did was move out of the way and watched the bad guys trip over themselves and fall down. It made it seem as though the French police was trained by Chris Farley.

It's true that Cyril Raffaelli and the fight choreographer did a great job with the martial arts stuff. But a lot of it rang hollow, and looked more like filler which was used to break up the boring exposition.

Also, there are huge problems with the way in which District 13 itself was presented. We're still supposed to believe that it's a lawless, dangerous place. Sure, people are going about toting AK-47s and dealing drugs.

But the area is shown as being divided into specific territories, each run by its own boss. And all of the bosses were minding their own business with no one causing any serious trouble. In fact, the big bosses actually respected each other. We never see turf battles or dirty plots in the making.

This undermines much of the story, because it doesn't leave much room for exciting conflict. When the government conspiracy element is introduced, the audience is put into the odd position of sympathizing with drug runners and thugs. And with that, the film makes a shallow social statement that is unintentionally offensive.

At the end, it is implied that the impoverished District B13, which is populated largely by ethnic minorities, can only be saved by benevolent government action and "unlimited funding." The overall presentation is embarrassing to watch. A bunch of hardened career criminals literally look into the camera and make the point that things wouldn't have been this way if only they'd gotten a handout...

Yeah, I know it's just a movie and I doubt most normal people would formulate their political/social opinions based on the statements made in this picture.

But still.

I watched this thing to be entertained...not to hear some lame excuse for a social message that's so stupidly presented it almost made me want to kick a large hole in my bathroom door.

Who would like this movie: Avoid District 13: Ultimatum. Watch the first one, and forget this one even exists. It's just a bad dream, like the one when you're back in high school and you're about to take a big exam which you forgot to study for.

The story is utterly implausible, even for a ridiculous action movie. The government conspiracy angle is interesting for about two minutes, then balloons into a plot that involves too many new characters and subplots. Why is having too many characters a problem? I'll explain it like this:

The first B13 movie is like having a great birthday party with just you and your closest friends. You order a pizza, sit back, share a few good laughs, and have a great talk.

District 13: Ultimatum, on the other hand, is like having another party with the same friends. You had a great time at the last party, so why not throw another? So you do.

Only this time, a whole bunch of their friends (i.e. uninvited guests) show up too. Then the neighbors come over. Then the neighbors' friends come over.

They start eating your food, drinking your beer, going through your stuff, etc. Pretty soon everyone's wasted and acting like ass-clowns except you (because they drank all your beer). Sure, there's a lot of activity happening, and your friends from the first party are still there. But is it a fun time? No.

Now imagine that your place has been thoroughly trashed, and that everyone leaves without offering to help clean up. How would you feel? That's what I thought. And I guarantee you'll feel exactly the same way after watching this movie.

(1 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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