District B13 (2004)
June 8, 2020 7:17 PM - Subscribe

In the ghettos of Paris in 2010, an undercover cop and an ex-thug try to infiltrate a gang in order to defuse a neutron bomb.

AV Club: With the vaguest of allusions to the recent immigrant riots, the film opens in 2010 Paris, where government leaders have decided to seal the city's crime-ridden housing districts behind a security wall. Needless to say, the isolated projects are a grimy haven for crime lords like Larbi Naceri, a thug who casually guns down his own henchmen at any hint of bad news, and presides over a mountain of cocaine to rival Al Pacino's in Scarface. As the proprietor of the only "clean" building in the neighborhood, David Belle is a persistent thorn in Naceri's side, as he does everything in his Jackie Chan-like power to upend the drug trade. After a series of events land Belle in jail while Naceri keeps his sister (Dany Verissimo) on a leash, an equally dexterous cop (Cyril Raffaelli) recruits Belle to stop Naceri from launching a nuclear rocket into the city.

Chicago Tribune: The movie doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's done with such zest and skill--and such incredible stunt work and action choreography by co-stars Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle--that the absurdities don't sabotage it.

Then again, maybe the absurdities help it. Produced and co-written by action king Luc Bes-son, France's main Hollywood wannabe (the director of "La Femme Nikita" and "The Professional"), "B13" is set in a drug-ridden, crime-infested ghetto much like the one in Mathieu Kassovitz's more serious youth-crime drama "Hate." But this is sheer fantasy. Raffaelli and Belle play, respectively, an undercover cop named Damien and a B13 vigilante named Leito, who team up to battle cocaine-addict mobster Taha (Bibi Naceri). Bad-tempered Taha has stolen a massive bomb, triggered the countdown and may wind up blowing up millions of people unless the duo find and defuse it--at, of course, the last possible minute.

NYTimes: With backing from the film's producer and co-writer, Luc Besson, the director, Pierre Morel, mounts a breakneck B movie inspired by Hong Kong action extravaganzas, the gritty genre classics of John Carpenter and the Thai neo-kung fu parable "Ong Bak." He hasn't reinvented this particular wheel, but he gets it spinning with delirious savoir-faire.


Terrible, painful, barely watchable remake (retitled "Brick Mansions") starring Belle and Paul Walker in place of Cyril Rafaelli now streaming on Hulu.
posted by MoonOrb (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The classic parkour film. I haven't seen it in way too long, but I remember really enjoying it. Manages to subvert a couple of expectations, but mostly it's pretty a straightforward action movie. Paints the downtrodden inhabitants of the banlieu as sympathetic instead of (completely) criminal and the politicians and cops as the ultimate villains.

Its influence was felt far beyond its immediate impact in that it brought us a number of parkour sequences in Hollywood movies, culminating of course with Punisher: War Zone. Even now with the parkour craze mostly behind us, foot chases are expected to be more fluid than they were before, our heroes and villains expected to have much more finesse when running around.

I remember having some serious problems with a message of "tolerance" that was in the sequel ("let's live and let live with nazi skinheads") and I can't remember if that was also there in this film or if I just missed it at the time. It could be true that I'm misremembering the sequel. It's been a long time.

I also watched Brick Mansions which seemed forgettable and unnecessary, except hey more work for Belle is probably a good thing.
posted by ODiV at 8:50 PM on June 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was reading this description and nodding along, wondering how I could have seen this and then got to the bottom. Ah, I saw that terrible Paul Walker movie, but it made so little of an impression on me that I would never have thought of it again if not for this post. Maybe I will try to find the original.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:48 AM on June 9, 2020

The extremely short run-time of this movie is one of its positive features.

Watch action
Mostly parkour
Not too much
posted by migurski at 8:13 AM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

There's some really nice stunts in this but IIRC there is at least one instance where the hero runs fast along a narrow corridor at someone with a machine gun and is so fast all the bullets hit the wall he isn't running down. Now clearly the hero not getting hit is super common but this was particularly egregious.
posted by biffa at 9:31 AM on June 9, 2020

I haven't seen it since shortly after it came out, but I remember this being what would've been a fairly unremarkable action movie except with such outstanding stunt and action work that it elevated the whole thing.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:33 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

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