Foreign Film Review: District B13

Two things that I can really appreciate about an action film: authentic fighting and authentic stunt work. You know, fighting that isn’t riddled by camera cuts to make the action seemingly more exciting than it really is, and stunts in which there is no possible way you can tell if it’s real or fake. I know, it seems that these types of films may be few and far between, but every now and then, a film lives up to these expectations. Enter District B13.

Background. District B13 is a 2004 French film, which is widely known for it’s numerous parkour sequences, which were said to be done without any wire or computer effects. Parkour, as stated by Wikipedia, is the physical discipline of French origin in which participants run along a route, attempting to negotiate obstacles in the most efficient way possible, as if moving in an emergency situation, using skills such as jumping and climbing, or the more specific parkour moves. Mirror’s Edge, eat your heart out!

Plot. In 2010 B13, a slum in the suburbs of Paris is riddled with violence and mayhem and eventually a wall is constructed to contain this area. Soon after schools close, there is little to no law enforcement, and all hope is lost. One person, Leito, stands against the terror and soon finds himself on the bad side of the drug lord Taha. Taha kidnaps Leito’s sister, Lola, and after an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Leito finds himself on the wrong side of the few, crooked cops left in B13. Meanwhile an experimental bomb is stolen and taken into District B13. In an effort to retrieve the missing weapon, a hotshot undercover officer, Damien Tomaso, teams up with the detained Leito in an attempt to rescue Leito’s sister, and take back the weapon.

Main Characters. Leito, the main protagonist, is a streetwise acrobatic resident of B13 who knows the distinct like the back of his hand, and is the one shining light of B13. His character is portrayed by David Belle, who is largely credited as the founder of parkour.

Capt. Damien Tomaso is a star undercover officer who firmly believes and lives by the law. His character is portrayed by Cyril Raffaelli, who is a martial artist and stuntman, and is credited with parkour coordinator on the latest Incredible Hulk film.

The Good. Okay, no need to beat around the bush on this one. This movie is entirely about the action. It makes you appreciate the art of seeing the human body at it’s best. Simply put, Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle are awesome. And although the storyline isn’t the deepest around (and often times predictable), the movie does offer up a plot twist at the end which will keep you on edge through the closing minutes.

The Bad. Subtitles, I hate subtitles. There may be an English dubbed version of this film out there, but the one and only reason I saw this movie, was because it was on Netflix instant streaming. Unfortunately, it was just subtitled, which took me away from all the great action. Says a lot that I still love this movie, even though I had to read the entire time. I can’t fault the movie for that, but it was still annoying. Also, why give a date in a movie? 2010? Really? This movie makes the mistake of giving itself a date of 2010 as the future when it’s really not needed. They could have easily said, “In the not too distinct future”. By giving a date, they age the movie. It was made in 2004, and seeing that it’s 2009 right now, it just seems silly and very unnecessary to give the date in the film. It only adds unnecessary age to the film, which, if it wasn’t for them mentioning the date, I would have thought it was just made.

Conclusion. This movie has more action than you can shake a stick at. Great stunts, great fighting, with an okay storyline. What more do you want? As fore mentioned it’s available for instant streaming via Netflix. So if you can stomach reading subtitles, it’s a go. Next up, Oldboy!

Verdict: Must See