District 13 (2004) – Pierre Morel

 

The 101 Action Movies brings this awesome confection of martial arts and parkour. Luc Besson serves as writer and producer on this wickedly cool, fast-moving film, set in the distant year 2010!

Stealing a page from John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, areas in Paris have begun to be cordoned off, with huge walls being built to keep in the less than desirable elements. It is here where violence and crime reign supreme, as the police have pulled out, and schools have been closed.

This is where Leito (David Belle) lives, no longer a thug, just trying to make his own part of the world a better place, even if that means stealing and destroying drugs belonging to local crimelord Taha (Bibi Naceri). This sets up a fantastic opening sequence as Leito is pursued from his apartment across the district, using walls, slipping through tiny spaces, making insane jumps, and constantly moving to avoid his pursuers.

leito

It ends poorly though when his sister, Lola (Dany Verissimo) is taken by Taha, and Leito is stuck in a cell.

Into this mess comes Captain Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli), a bit of an unstoppable supercop, who is commissioned by his superiors to infiltrate District 13, where it seems Taha has had his crew, overseen by the enormous K2 (Tony D’Amario), seize a clean neutron bomb, and is threatening to fire it into the heart of Paris. But maybe there is more going on here than everyone realizes…

With only 24 hours before detonation, Damien teams up with Leito, both are after something Taha has, and they take the fight to him.

The film moves along at a breakneck pace, and yes, the story is fairly simple, but the simply stunning action sequences more than make up for it, as both of the film’s leads perform all of their parkour stunts, and some of them are amazing!

I quite enjoy this film, it’s one of those that even if you didn’t have the subtitles on you could understand what was going on, as the story, such as it is, is conveyed perfectly through the images of the film. There is no doubt about who the good guys or the bad guys are, and since a large portion of the film is filled with wordless action sequences…

tomaso

The music is driving, and fits the movie perfectly, as Leito and Damien race to stop the bomb before it’s launch and rescue Lola from Taha.

This one is a no-brainer, but so much fun to watch. Knowing that there was little to no wirework used for any of the stunts, and that it was all done for real is simply mind-boggling. Both Belle and Raffaelli are likable in their roles, and both are in tip-top shape.

Belle is one of the founders of Parkour so it seemed appropriate for him to play one of the leads, and he actually does so very well, imbuing Leito with honor and humor, while Raffaelli plays Damien a little more straight, a no-nonsense cop eager to uphold the law.

This one is fun, see it on a big screen television, and marvel at the stunt work!

district-b13-screenshot2

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