District 13: Ultimatum

Viewed – 01 Jan 2010  DVD

He confuses me, Luc Besson.  Arguably one of the coolest French directors, who gave the world the impeccable ‘Leon’, now spends most of his time writing movies for other people to direct.  Still it has to be said, they still remain very much his babies, most notably Liam Neeson vehicle ‘Taken’, ‘The Transporter’ series and now this, the follow-up to a stylish but silly thriller about a crime-ridden district in near-future Paris.  This one follows on after the events in the first movie, as corrupt special agents kill a couple of patrol officers then dump their squad car slap-bang in the middle of the district, and then create fake gunfire to cause the residents to retaliate, and capture the events on camera.  This then leads to rioting and violence as a war erupts between the authorities and local gangs, and soon the president is calling for the place to be nuked.  This at first complex set up gives the movie a better driving force than the last outing, with a bigger theme than before. 

Soon enough under-cover cop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) is calling on old-friend and free-runner Lieto (David Belle) to break him out of custody after being set up, and before long they are recruiting the gangs to fight and prove their innocence against a corrupt regime.  What separates this from other political thrillers is the sheer style and finesse on display … the action here is all about acrobatics, kung-fu, very painful looking stunt work, car chases and a funky dance soundtrack, meaning you will struggle to catch your breath throughout the 90 minute running time.  The stronger story and better character-interplay makes this a vast improvement over the previous movie, and the action seems more drawn out and impressive.  Basically this is District 13 perfected.  I urge you to check it out.

Verdict:  4 /5

District 13

Viewed – 12 December 2009  DVD

Not to be confused with recent sci-fi blockbuster District 9, this French thriller from producer / writer Luc Besson follows the story of athletic, free-running street kid Lieto (David Belle), who after some nasty business with some gangsters, finds his kid-sister kidnapped as he falls into the hands of the local police.  Imprisoned and unable to save his sister, hope comes when an undercover cop (Cyril Raffaelli) breaks him out of a prison van and recruits him to infiltrate the district again, save his sister, and stop a bomb from exploding. 

Of course the plot is bonkers, with a magufin that’s been seen a million times, but hey, this is style-heavy, has much of the personality evident in Luc Besson’s directorial efforts like Nikita and Leon, but lacks a certain air of professionalism amidst some startling stunts, brilliantly choreographed martial arts and an electro-dance soundtrack that booms around the room.  The editing is a little too flash for its own good, and the characters wafer-thin at best, but it is a helluva lot of fun, and as a showcase for free running / parkour this is a must see.

Verdict:  3 /5