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Overall Rating
4.29

Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look65.33%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 1.33%

9 reviews, 21 user ratings


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District B13
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by Scott Weinberg

"Slick, quick, and a whole lotta fun."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL: The heroes of first-time director Pierre Morel's "District 13" (aka Banlieue 13) are amazingly slippery. When forced to contend with a virtually endless line-up of tenaciously villainous henchmen, the guys slip through windows, bound off of balconies, and hightail it down an alleyway with a velocity that would make Carl Owens stand up and applaud. You've never seen anything quite like the action-laden acrobatics of "District 13," and the flick makes for one of the most entertaining French imports since the early days of Luc Besson.

Not even remotely surprisingly, Luc Besson is listed as a producer on District 13, mainly because the guy loves to help create high-end action mayhem, but also because the guy produces virtually every French movie these days. Clocking in at a slick and efficient 85 minutes, District 13 might not stack up to some of Besson's finest efforts (like Leon or La Femme Nikita), but compared to most of his English-language efforts (say, The Transporter, Unleashed, or Kiss of the Dragon), District 13 is an absolute revelation.

Here Besson hands the directorial reins to one Pierre Morel, a first-time helmer who cut his teeth as cinematographer on a few of the aforementioned films, and it was a wonderfully good hire on Besson's behalf. Morel's camera is forever swirling, spinning, and swaying its way through the myriad action sequences, never going so far as to draw attention away from the spectacle, and fluid enough to make District 13 feel like a movie that only a speed-freak could love. (That's meant as a compliment, oddly enough.)

Borrowing a small page from John Carpenter's Escape from New York, District 13 is about a Paris slum (circa 2010) that's been walled shut by the powers-that-be. Within the ghetto, crime reins supreme. Enter one curiously noble ass-kicker (who spends the first ten minutes of the flick trying to destroy a kingpin's cocaine supply) called Leito, an energetic do-gooder who simply refuses to be captured by a small army of armed thugs. Over the course of one dizzyingly entertaining (and masterfully edited) chase scene, Leito makes one thing clear: he may not be immortal ... but he's pretty damn close.

Anyway, the baddies eventually do turn the tables on our curious hero, which allows Morel to switch on over to chapter two.

Here we meet an undercover cop called Damien, an idealistic agent who possesses several of the same skills as Leito. Whether he's using guns, fists, walls, or whatever small items happen to be close by, Damien is one bad-ass villain-dropper...

And it's at this point during District 13 that a viewer starts to realize, "OK, I get it. Two long, exciting, and (as-yet) unrelated subplots are about to meld into one story as these two guys team up to re-infiltrate the walled-in neighborhood, thwart the sniveling villain, save the girl, and rescue Paris from a fancy new bomb."

And you'd be right. Whether the flick is focusing on its numerous action scenes or its breathless bouts of plot exposition, District 13 speeds by like an absolute blur. The characters are painted with broad and colorful brush strokes, the plot is enjoyably convoluted but never confusing, and the tone is a picture-perfect combo of gritty street violence and tongue-in-cheek swagger.

The name of the game here is "Parkour," which is a relatively new style of hyper-kinetic martial artistry, but clearly the two leads (David Belle & Cyril Raffaelli) are absolute masters of this craft. To be proficient at Parkour, you must be able to leap six feet in the air, curl into a ball, slip through tiny windows, leap from great heights, and basically drive your opponents insane through sheer force of slippery momentum. One of the District 13 villains describes the hero as a bar of soap, and that's not too far off the mark. Imagine Jackie Chan combined with the Road Runner, and you're halfway to understanding how insanely cool this "Parkour" stuff is.

Crisp, slick, fun, and nimble, this eye-popping action import is an absolute joy to behold. It's mounted precisely like a comic book, presented in visually dazzling form, and concluded precisely when (and how) it oughtta be.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12230&reviewer=128
originally posted: 04/02/06 04:27:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Independent Film Festival of Boston For more in the 2006 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Deep Focus Film Fest For more in the 2006 Deep Focus Film Fest series, click here.

User Comments

1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Very Interesting 4 stars
2/02/08 rome Dany Verissimo as Lola was simply gorgeous. The movie was worth it just to see her. 5 stars
4/03/07 mario great movie 5 stars
1/14/07 Tanya Fun to watch, the action scenes were great but the film was short 5 stars
10/24/06 chris yes this film is really good as im into Le Parkour 5 stars
9/09/06 danthewrestlingman Not since Drive(mark dacascos) has an action film impressed me this much 5 stars
8/28/06 Tom Rx Really good film especially if your into parkour 5 stars
6/15/06 Ricardo good action film 4 stars
6/14/06 burton miller i wish i had known it was directed by the same asshole that directed 'transporter 2' 1 stars
6/13/06 Mase Mindless fun, charasmatic stars, and a great pulsing techno soundtrack. 4 stars
6/07/06 Darren Shea A well-constructed, exciting action film - why can't American dumb actioners be this good? 4 stars
6/06/06 Karl It was fun and entertaining. Lots of good action/stunt. 4 stars
6/05/06 NATHALIE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT FUN AND SUSPENSE AND VERY WITTY 5 stars
6/03/06 KingNeutron Great action sequences, some good lines. Recommended. 4 stars
6/02/06 San Lamar good 5 stars
5/30/06 Jeremy The talent displayed here is astounding... Felt like I was hooked to an iv of adrenaline 5 stars
4/23/06 Panda-chan This is one ridiculously awesome movie. Belle does an amazing job of showing parkour. 5 stars
4/14/06 SCYTHER Good parkour scenes 5 stars
3/30/06 Alicia Awesome 5 stars
3/17/06 Rebecca It's a dumb action movie, but it's a good dumb action movie. 4 stars
10/24/05 The Almighty Zero Mind-blowing, gravity-defying action movie! Wonderful choreography and great eye candy! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Jun-2006 (R)
  DVD: 05-Sep-2006

UK
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