on 6 April 2009
A visually stunning and entertaining action romp. The first chase sequence between 'the bad guys' and our Robin Hoodesq hero Lito is breath taking and all in all probably rates top of all the scenes in the film; kicking the whole story off with some simian acrobatics the likes of which I've not seen in any other european film.
The exchanges between the evil drug crazed overlord Taha and his henchmen is quite cartoon like and he could quite easily be replaced with Baron Greenback from Dangermouse, suspension of belief around this multi-millionare businessman selling drugs to the poor and dispossessed with an army better equipped than the French Foreign Legion is very much required. If he keeps shooting those employees that can't catch the uncatchable Lito why do people carry on working for him?
Once Lito teams up with a policeman who comes across like the french version of Jason Statham to take down the big bad of district 13 the monkey work becomes twice as fun and the cartoon antics scale to even higher plataus of Absurd mountain.
All in all its a very entertaining watch and I leave you with just one piece of advice. When sticking that DVD into your player don't be tempted to watch the film with the american dubbing as the region 2 disc attempts to force on its poor unsuspecting viewers. All the dialogue is odd and irksome! A big hulk of a guy like K2 really doesn't look right talking with a weedy Californian accent. Go to the main menu and watch it with subtitles!
on 10 October 2006
District 13 is mind-bogglingly good. Absolutely no plot whatsoever (something about a bomb...? Who cares!) but you'll be watching it for the action. And it'll give it to you in *spades*. Great big dirty French spades.
The parkour - or free running - in it is ground-breaking (no pun intended), and as if that's not enough, it's also got some martial arts scenes that'll also make you wee yourself. Aaaaace!
It's not for the very easily offended as there's a bit of talk about knickers n there's some swearing n such, but it's a fantastic film.
Will have you wanting to fling yourself off tall buildings within the first 10 minutes. Don't do it, though. These people are superhuman. Or part cat. Either way, sheer awesomeness.
They make movies about social phenomena all the time (think break dancing) so why should Parkour miss out on all the fun. Actually, this is the second film I've seen to showcase free running. The first was another French film called Yamikasi. This one though, is a re-hash of Escape from New York, well, it sort of is. The hero is the only decent person living in an increasingly lawless Paris suburb, one ruled by drug gangs and fear. After getting rid of a consignment of drugs and making an enemy of local kingpin he looses it with the local Police for not acting on his information, his actions land him a spell in jail. He is taken out of prison in order to escort a cop back into the walled district because the leader of the gangs has got his hands on a portable nuclear bomb; this happened in my neighbourhood too. The incentive given to the hero is that his sister is trapped in the walled district and being held captive by the very bad guy who is holding the bomb. The two intrepid heroes make their way back into the place, que, shootouts, fistfights, hugely exciting stunt work, chases, and an end twist you can see a mile off. Then end result is a blast of a ride, think of it as the Transporter married to Escape from New York.
on 20 October 2008
District 13 is in Paris and it's "out of control" -- taxpayers are sick of paying for it, and the establishment has come up with an ingenious way to solve the problem. It's built a wall around it and you can't get out, or in, except through the police barrier.
The multi-racial inhabitants are left to themselves and gangsters rule. By the way, this is set in 2010 -- 2 years from now!
This fast-paced French film, released on DVD in October 2006, looks like it was made in response to the rioting in France back in 2005 but was actually made in 2004. Quite what it is saying to either the rioters or the law-abiding French, or about the French establishment, is difficult to interpret. But really, when the action and stunts are as good as this, the message fades into the background.
The story: A bomb has inadvertently found itself in a van in District 13. It will blow up "8 kilometres" and wipe out the District unless it is defused. Only two men can get to the bomb: Leito and Damien.
Leito is an ultra-fit, cool as a cumumber, "parkour" expert, and resident of the District, played by David Belle -- real-life inventor of "Le Parkour" -- who is opposed to the drug dealing in his block run by the gangland master Taha (played by Bibi Naceri). Leito has an initial trust in the law which turns bitterly and violently cynical.
Damien, is an ultra-fit, cool as a cumumber, hand-to-hand combat expert and policeman played by Cyril Raffaelli who in contrast to Leito, believes "The law is for everyone in this country" and "worth fighting for". He especially believes in the French values of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity". "Some values are worth defending."
In a way this film could be seen as an attempt to get the people who are disenchanted in the ghettos, to rally behind the idea of "French values", as embodied in policeman Damien and his integrity and commitment to the rule of law.
At the same time, though, it plays to the idea that some in the French state are corrupt and others couldn't care less about the ghetto inhabitants, or want to kill them -- which won't exactly inspire confidence in those people! As the Chief of Police states, "Two million people live in that District of which about 50% deserve our help."
Amusingly, Damien's character attempts to tell us seriously that, "Violence doesn't always solve problems -- there are more democratic ways." He must have been putting the emphasis on the "doesn't always" because after watching this film, one is certainly left with the distinct impression that violence "doesn't always" solve everything but in Leito and Damien's world it certainly solves most things!
David Belle, who plays Leito, is the real-life founder of the running and jumping art of "Le Parkour", the aim of which has been described as moving "from point A to point B as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body. It is meant to help one overcome obstacles, which can be anything in the surrounding environment -- from branches and rocks to rails and concrete walls." Stylistically it is claimed to differ from "Free Running" -- which British people would consider the more popular term for this activity -- in that it is said to be more functional and efficient and less obviously acrobatic and showy in nature.
The degree of physical accomplishment which Belle and Raffaelli demonstrate in this film has to be seen to be believed.
Two amazing jumps, among many which include some quite literal death-defying leaps from rooftops: One by Belle through the top of a small window on the top of a door, and another by Raffaelli -- an utterly astonishing, jaw-dropping, leap and perfect landing into the passenger seat of a car, through the window, feet first! You can play it again and again and still not believe a human being actually managed it! A different, and even more impressive angle can be seen in the "Making of" special feature in the DVD.
The physical skill and achievement of the Frenchmen Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle, who perform all their stunts themselves, are an absolute invigourating, heart-pounding joy to watch. What you will take away from this film is a deep respect for the physical accomplishment of these two astonishing athletes.
on 19 October 2007
After seeing Casino Royale and loving the Parkour (a.k.a. free-running) chase scene near the beginning, I went on to the IMDb and searched for other films featuring Parkour. The selection was quite limited but one of them was this, District 13. When I saw that it was co-written by Luc Besson I immediately added it to my rental list.
I watched it today and was very pleasantly surprised. The last time I was unexpectedly impressed by a movie like this was "Equilibrium". The storyline is actually quite original and manages to avoid various tired cliches. The action is top-notch making great use of Parkour and martial arts.
I would recommend this to anyone who likes martial arts films (particularly if you like Jackie Chan films), or if you just like a decent action movie.
on 8 February 2007
Good fun although a tad disappointing. Not the Ong-Bak I was hoping it to be and despite the marvellous opening chase sequence across the building, their was a distinct lack of Le Parkour, instead transforming into a more languid martial arts flick. Still, at under 90 minutes it passes relatively quickly and what's in there is entertaining - the fight in the casino and the leap over the speeding car showing off some wonderful style despite the lack of substance. Indeed, with the recent student riots in Paris and the knowing nod to Escape From New York's plot, District 13 could have combined more cerebal stuff to its content to make it a far more interesting film. That opening chase sequence is still pretty damn cool though!
Without spoiling the surprise too much, an ad hoc team of a policeman and a prison inmate, inhabitant of District 13 comes together to remove a bomb from a suburb of Paris in the near future, where the state is slowly failing to control the immigrant population.
The plot as such is barely existing and hoping for one should have you looking elsewhere. The action, on the other hand is pretty neat, apparently one of the first cinematic capturings of parkour - free running, mixed and matched with some martial arts and the occasional shootout (the driving scenes are not much to write home about).
In the action sense the film is definintely a success, and I'd say it's worth watching for that aspect alone.
on 15 July 2008
I really enjoyed this action packed French film.The plot is secondary,but the action is first class.A drug crime-lord holds the city of Paris to ransom,threatening to detonate a stolen nuclear warhead.In some ways,it reflects Escape from New York.The crime ridden areas of Paris are walled off from everybody else.Two men team up reluctantly to try and stop Taha,(the big bad guy!) from blowing Paris up.One of the good guys is a cop,the second man only wishes to rescue his kidnapped sister(sexy Dany Verissimo)from Taha's clutches.Its a hugely enjoyable film,and if you don't demand too much,it may be to your liking.It was to mine!
It may well be made by the same guys who created the Transporter, but the language is French, Jason Statham is nowhere in sight and all the work is real, the stunts, the utterly bonkers story and the Parisienne scenery.
The dialogue is crazy, the story line is equally mad, but it matters not. It's fast paced, clever and the stunts are better than anything you'll have ever seen.
The DVD is a bargain, so go for it, you'll watch it and then want to bring your pals around with a load of beers and food, to watch it with you!
on 23 August 2006
If we are voting out of 5, District 13 gets at least 6 stars.
The Free Running or 'PARKOUR' in the film is groundbreaking, never seen before on films this discipline not only raises the bar, but sets it on fire. David Belle plays Leito, a resident of District 13..a high security Paris ghetto. His sister is kidnapped and he chased through the District to save her. While the gang who have her busy themselves with a plot to fire a nuclear warhead into the City.
Undercovercops, raging gun battles and everything you have come to expect from a Luc Besson film.
The Free running scenes have to be seen to be believed, this guy leaps some gaps that really should not be possible. It is all for real, no CGI, no special effects and just outstanding.
A must see.