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District B13
DVD disk
09.11.2006 By: Jason Adams
District B13 order
Director:
Pierre Morel

Actors:
Cyril Raffaelli
David Belle
Dany Verissimo

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
It’s 2010 and Paris has become so overridden with crime (I guess the French surrendered one too many times…) that the government has built an enormous wall isolating the city’s various districts. In the ghetto borough of District B13, a powerful druglord has gotten his hands on an experimental bomb set to go off in 24 hours. To get it back, the police team up their best undercover agent with the only man who’s ever infiltrated the kingpin’s safehouse, an ex-con with his own agenda at stake—his kidnapped sister.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
While I'd like to see Luc Besson actually get back to directing action films, I'll settle for his yearly crop of fun "Produced By" movies. DISTRICT B13 (BANLIEUE 13) takes many a cue from flicks like THE TRANSPORTER and KISS OF THE DRAGON, where it’s all about kicking ass and looking good whilst doing it.

Director Pierre Morel worked as cinematographer on the TRANSPORTER movies and he’s obviously comfortable shooting in this kind of ultra-kinetic and hyper-stylized world. I can’t remember the last action movie that was this non-stop; from the slick opening credits, DISTRICT 13 delivers some sweet gunplay, hardcore martial arts and more—thanks to it’s two stars each bringing their own style of action to the table. The first is Cyril Raffaelli, who famously gave Jet Li a run for his money as one of the blonde twins in KISS OF THE DRAGON. Raffaelli choreographed all the fights here himself and the result is brutal and painfully realistic. The casino brawl, for example, showcases not just his speed and fighting skills, but the hard-hitting stunt work as well. As for the other star...if Spiderman had wild upside down sex with Jackie Chan, their inexplicably French offspring would be David Belle. Belle is one of the founders of a sport called Parkour that’s all about getting from Point A to Point B as fast as you can, whether that means jumping off buildings or squeezing through unbelievably tiny windows. It’s a perfect fit for an action film and offers a fresh spin on your typical chase scenes. And I have to give credit to Morel for using plenty of wide and continuous shots so you can actually see these guys do everything themselves.

While the plot may take a backseat to the eye-candy action, the story itself is none too shabby. Co-written by Besson, the script is filled with plenty of unexpected twists and happily bucks the typical action formula. And I gotta say—maybe it’s because they’re speaking French, but for guys who were hired for their fighting skills, Rafaelli and Belle are pretty decent actors with good chemistry to boot. In fact, DISTRICT 13 reminded me of the fun 80’s “buddy” action movies, except sped up on methamphetamines (and without the homoerotic undertones).
THE EXTRAS
For a foreign flick that didn’t get much attention on this side of the water, the DVD actually has some quality features on it.

The Making of DISTRICT B13 (54:33):Want to know how a stuntman lands back-first onto the sharp corner of a table? He does it for real. An exhaustive documentary that focuses mainly on the stuntwork and filming for all the major action set pieces, but also covers the fun atmosphere and relationships on set with cast and crew interviews.

Extended Fight Scene: Casino (2:24): The raw footage of the kickass fight in its entirety. There’s not a whole lot of extra stuff, but Rafaelli pulls off a pretty badass move with a shotgun that definitely should’ve been left in. After watching the Making Of doc, you’ll appreciate the hard work and time that goes in to such a short action sequence and how easy they make it all look.

Outtakes (2:57): Apparently the martial arts is the easy part, but tossing a cell phone to the guy next to you is an impossible feat to capture on camera.

A few Trailers, including one of my late night TV guilty pleasures, the dubbed-Japanese game-show- on-acid MXC.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Don’t let the crappy cover fool you, DISTRICT B13 is anything but lame and cheesy. If hyperactive action movies like ONG BAK or THE TRANSPORTER are your thing, prepare to have a blast.
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