District 13 (15)
Time Out says
Tue Jul 4 2006The allure of watching grown men risking life and limb in the name of a paycheque remains mysterious, but this bubblegum actioner from the pen of Luc Besson certainly proves that knuckleheaded heroics do have a peculiar charm. It’s 2010 and the run-down Parisian banlieue of the title is rife with gun-toting drug dealers sporting a range of asymmetric haircuts and driving around (rather carelessly) in souped-up BMWs. When the government hears that local kingpin Taha (Bibi Naceri) has acquired a nuclear weapon, Damien (the cop) and Leïto (the convict) are called upon to secure the bomb and save the district from annihilation.
This French rehash of ‘Escape from New York’ is unabashed in its dedication to fan-boy stunt work and energetic action sequences, but is given a novel twist by its use of le parkour (known on these shores as free running). Director Pierre Morel gives the action an almost dance-like quality and what starring duo Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle (the originator of le parkour) lack in acting prowess, they more than make up for in their ability to weightlessly soar across a rolling medley of high-rise apartment blocks – and at various points give the impression that they are physically flying.
An extraneous political subplot involving the sincerity of the government’s commitment to saving the area is pretty flimsy but is made to seem prescient by the recent suburban conflicts in Paris. This is loud, obnoxious and contains a narrative you could probably fit on the back of a cigarette packet, but as 85-minute testosterone binges go, you could do a whole lot worse.
Author: David Jenkins
Fri Jul 7, 2006