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.
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