District B13 (2004)

Who knew the French were so damn good at action films? Co-written by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) and the first film directed by Pierre Morel (Taken), District B13 is 85 minutes of pure mayhem. Set in the future of 2010, Paris has become full of crime and corruption and because of this, the Government has begun sectioning off the more troublesome areas of the city in an effort to keep crime down and to let the gangs destroy themselves. Cyril Raffaelli stars as Capt. Damien Tomaso who is sent into District B13 to disable a bomb that has been stolen by criminal mastermind Taha (Bibi Naceri), head of the biggest gang in the area. To get in, Tomaso enlists the help of prisoner Leito (David Belle), who has a vandetta against Taha for kidnapping his sister Lola (Dany Verissimo) and turning her into his drug-addicted slave. Together, the two attempt to find the bomb, disarm it, and stop Taha from selling it off…but is everything really what it seems?

District B13 was the film that introduced the world to parkour, a crazy activity in which people propel themselves off of random stuff ninja style, which was also parodied in The Office. Belle is actually credited with the creation of this activity/sport and…holy crap is it impressive. Jackie Chan’s former exploits look like a day in the park compared to what Belle can do. He leaps off of walls with the greatest of ease, jumps off of high buildings, swings off of poles, slides through small windows, all in one fluid motion one after another after another. This guy is like a robot. While Belle parkours like a madman, Raffaeli handles the bulk of the fighting, both physically with his martial arts and with the gun fights. The two together make an ass kicking duo that far outshines anything the United States has done.

District B13 has a short running time (not even 85 minutes as previously mentioned, that’s a ballpark estimate), so because of this, it is all action and little plot. The idea of Paris sectioning off parts of the city because of crime is an intriguing concept and it’s set close enough to the shoot date of the film to keep it feeling somewhat real. However, the twist is seen from a mile away and there is little to no character development. Another gripe is the introduction of what is supposed to be a major villain. Let’s just say that the villain is only there for about five minutes and does not do anything of any value. It felt like a waste even introducing him.

Gripes aside, District B13 has everything you want in an action movie: crazy fight sequences, blood, one-liners, a hilarious villain, all the trimmings. After watching this, it is plain to see why Pierre Morel continues to get work, as he proves himself capable of directing action movies that are not only fun, but are well-made. District B13 is an impressive action movie and is fun from beginning to end. This is worth a watch, most definitely…especially if you are intrigued on what “parkour” exactly is.

Final Verdict:


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