Tuesday, March 27, 2007

District B13

Mikey and I had a free rental at Blockbuster recently, so Mikey jokingly picked up District B13 based solely on its cover and suggested it. I had actually heard of the movie before, but it was French. We hesitated, due to the inherent bias Americans have against all things French, but decided to give it a shot. Hey - it was free, and The Transporter took place in France. Plus it was dubbed over in English, so we didn't have to deal with French accents. We figured at least it would be entertaining to watch, and if not watch, then listen to the Godzilla-like overdubs. The movie surprised me. It wasn't the greatest thing I've seen, but it was pretty solid.

District B13 was directed by a guy named Pierre Morel, who was the cinematographer for The Transporter. Luc Besson, the producer for Statham's starring vehicle, was also the producer of B13. Just with that information alone, this movie couldn't be horrible.

It's 2010 in Paris. The story follows our young hero, Leito, who is the landlord of an apartment complex in District B13, which is cordoned off by concrete walls by the government due to its hostile setting. Gangs and drugs run rampant in that particular area, but Leito is a good guy and wants to clean up his district. So he steals 20 kilos of heroin from the local mob boss and douses it with Drano to piss him off. The bad guy, Taha, sends his goons to take Leito down a notch, but using the masterful art of Free Running (or parkour, to those of you who are savvy to such things) Leito escapes. I'm going to go ahead and insert that scene right here for your viewing pleasure. (Also, I'm fairly certain that none of you are going to see this movie since you've probably never heard of it.)

One of the coolest things about District B13 is that it stars David Belle, the founder of parkour. He's actually a pretty good actor. You really felt for him throughout the whole movie. After this sequence, Taha kidnaps Leito's sister Lola and takes her hostage for six months while Leito is in jail for killing a cop (it's OK- the cop deserved it). The film then jumps over to the other main character, a French policeman named Damien who incidentally can also perform parkour stunts extraordinarily well. (Side note: Apparently everyone in France has some sort of training in Free Running.) Damien has to stop a bomb that has been released into District B13, and enlists the help of the only man who knows the area well enough to stop it in time: Leito. The plot was the only part of the movie that I thought wasn't quite up to par. (Hah, I guess that's kind of an important aspect, isn't it? Oh well.)

The movie makes up for it with sequences like the one posted and a couple other really cool chase/fight scenes. Unfortunately, there's not quite enough of them to kick it up into the ranks of the Transporter series. Ladies, you'll probably be bored to tears through this one, especially if you get tired of staring at Leito's shirtless body for the first half hour. Ah yes, this leads me to another reason I liked the film: it's short. The movie only runs 86 minutes, which is really awesome. I've seen so many movies recently where I've said to myself, "This would have been a lot better had they lost that last 30 minutes." District B13 understands what kind of movie it is, and doesn't punish audiences for watching it. I respect that. I also liked the movie because unlike some other action movies I've seen (cough cough...Bourne Supremacy...cough), the camera work wasn't nauseating. Morel very well could have taken this approach, but I for one am thankful they stayed away from what I consider distracting film-making.

Unlike a few other movies that I've reviewed this month, B13 shockingly has an underlying message. I don't know if you guys remember the riots in Paris that happened in 2005 (a year after this movie was originally released), but the reasons for those riots were a lot of the same reasons that people in the movie district of B13 weren't pleased with the government: they had abandoned them as a lost cause because of all the corruption, drug running, etc. The film is set in 2010, which isn't far enough in the future to have the scenario of fencing off neighborhoods be too unthinkable. The message is clear: hey, French government! Step up to the plate and do something about this problem! I'm surprised to see a legitimate political statement coming from a movie that I thought would only be straight action all the way through, but the filmmakers did their job and presented a valid point to their viewers to get their minds churning.

If I was forced to rate this film, I'd give it a respectable rating. The plot definitely isn't the most intellectually stimulating thing you'll ever see, but the movie understands that and doesn't try too hard to make it work. It just kind of goes with the flow, having some fun along the way. If you don't take it too seriously, and you're in the mood for some action (and Free Running), I think you'll like it. Until next time...

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