DISTRICT B13

 

Review by Mark Walters

 

While the term "Parkour" may not be widely known, many people have already seen the amateur videos of guys jumping from building to building with almost superhuman style.  David Belle pioneered this practice, and many have already marveled to his uncanny abilities.  His practice developed quite a following, and many have taken up this unusual sport with him.  It didn't take long for moviemakers to realize how cool this could be on the big screen.  DISTRICT B13 (or BANLIEUE 13 as it's known in France) is one of a few films incorporating Belle and his equally skilled friends.  If you thought their actions looked good before, wait until you see them in the theater.

 The movie opens telling us that in the near future certain cities around Paris became segregated, blocking off the rougher neighborhoods into oversized areas filled with crime and corruption.  The police stay out, and the criminals stay in.  In District B13 a ruthless crime lord named Taha (Bibi Naceri) runs drugs and guns without remorse.  Some in his area don't like it, especially Leito (David Belle), who would like nothing more than to do away with all of Taha's drugs.  When the criminals kidnap his sister Lola (Dany Verissimo), Leito rescues her and turns the tables on Taha, taking him to the police.  But the cops surprise him by releasing the crime boss, and locking him up instead.  Taha gets away with Lola.  Months later a tough cop named Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) is given an assignment which requires him to go into B13.  His superiors order him to find a bomb, which was stolen by Taha and his men.  He is paired with Leito, who is fresh out of prison, since Leito knows the area so well.  While Damien simply wants to do his job, Leito is more concerned with rescuing his sister.  But if these two don't work together as a team, neither one may survive.

 If you enjoy action films like THE TRANSPORTER 1 and 2, or just about any Jet Li movie, then this is the film for you.  The extreme action and intense physical stunts are mesmerizing and incredibly impressive.  You've never seen a chase on foot look more exciting than it does here.  While Belle and Raffaelli pretty much share equal screen time, it's Belle who takes our breath away scene after scene.  The story here, while familiar in many aspects (ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK comes to mind), is done in a fast-paced an entertaining style.  In fact the film is almost too short, but it's nice to get from start to finish in under 90 minutes, and not feel cheated on content.  Belle and Raffaelli also do a fine job as leading men, and make a good team on screen.  You have to remember that for the most part, every action move is being done by these guys for real, and not with the assistance of wires or special effects.  That in and of itself is the most impressive part of it all.  I really enjoyed Naceri's performance as the sadistic Taha.  His over the top portrayal is the kind of thing you long for in a big action movie villain.  The only character that is underdeveloped is Lola, but that's not too distracting.  In fact her being downplayed allows us to focus more on the action at hand.  There's a few unexpected twists here as well, and they're played with great effect.  This is one of the few times I've seen an audience almost unanimously love what they saw.  For the most part everyone seemed very impressed with the film, and for good reason.  American filmmakers could take a few cues from this one.  I fully expect we'll be seeing more of David Belle, and possibly in some American productions.  The upcoming James Bond film CASINO ROYALE looks to already be incorporating the Parkour style in it's action sequences.  In these days of overused wirework, it's nice to see an action flick that shows some REAL action for a change.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give DISTRICT B13 a 9.


Visit the official Magnolia Pictures DISTRICT B13 movie website by clicking here.


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