Review Date: 6/27/06
The Luc Besson produced film, District B-13 (directed by Pierre Morel), is a text book guide on how inventive action sequences should and can be done when creative minds are behind them. Like many of Besson’s produced action films (Transporter 1 & 2 for example), B-13 has all of the flash, energy and hip-hop top 40 soundtrack music that you would expect.
The plot is far-fetched, borrowing elements from John Carpenter’s infinitely superior Escape from New York, The Fast and the Furious series and various music video sources. It revolves around an ex-criminal (David Belle) and an undercover police officer (Cyril Raffaelli, from Jet Li’s Kiss of the Dragon) in a government in-closed district of Paris in the year 2010, where criminals and the drug trade reign. A drug kingpin (Bibi Naceri) has had some of his “product” stolen by the ex-criminal and he sends his most trusted thugs, one of which is K2, played by Tony D’Amario, to retrieve it. Belle’s pugnacious sister in the film, played by Dany Verissimo, is eventually brought into the movie’s structure as leverage against the ex-criminal. District B-13’s resulting plot is generic and is merely present as background filler for the film’s numerous action sequences, including its most memorable one involving Parkour, a sport consisting of moving freely in a natural area that Belle helped to invent, which lasts nearly two minutes and begins soon after the movie’s title sequence has ended.
District B-13, known around the world as Banlieue 13, District 13 or 13th District, is a physical movie, so much so that the needed actors had to be and are, physically fit and have an advanced knowledge of martial arts. The actors, as with their silent film brethren of the past, have to act with their bodies and faces throughout many of the scenes in B-13. Of course, in a hyper-reality popcorn movie of this nature, there is always the obligatory pretty girl whose main job it is to look pretty while not being a major part of the protagonist/antagonist plot or story arc. This was the case in all three of The Fast and Furious films and all of the clones it spewed (Torque) upon the world. This isn’t the case with Dany Verissimo. Instead of giving Belle, arguably the main star of B-13, “the wheel” in a key sequence, it is instead given to Verissimo. For this singular sequence, she is turned from mere screen candy into a actual participant in the film. Her inclusion in the movie doesn’t last long however and she is soon regulated to the background as the helpless and pantyless (you’ll see) damsel in “nuclear” distress.
Pierre Morel’s District B-13 is what all three of The Fast and the Furious movies are not, inventive. B-13 has everything those films have going for them (or against them, depending on your point of view): one dimensional characters, hot cars, hot babe(s), car-related action sequences, a studio packaged soundtrack, a hero triumphant conclusion and a open ending. What Morel’s B-13 brings to this MTV-influenced formula is that it never really gives you time to notice these genre commonalities (or deficiencies). District B-13 is a fast paced action rush from beginning to end.