District 13: Ultimatum (2009)

For those of us who unfortunately have not seen the original BANLIEUE 13 – aka DISTRICT 13 – (made in 2004 with the same crew except for the director – Pierre Morel), some of the background information that usually follows in a sequel is missing and according to many, the sequel here BANLIEUE 13:ULTIMATUM – aka DISTRICT 13: ULTIMATUM is not as strong a film. And perhaps that allows the viewer to appreciate fine French film making without the comparison!

Luc Besson (of the Trasnporter series et al) wrote this script (or rather, this plan of choreography, as there is not a lot of spoken dialogue in this fast-paced thriller) and Patrick Allessandrin directs a story of a region of Paris (District 13) that is cordoned off the rest of Paris by a group of five warlords who manage to control the drug ridden violent region. Basically the tale is that of two men – Captain Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli) and undercover cop of the ‘good’ police and Leïto (David Belle), an ex-thug who in the previous film infiltrated a gang in order to defuse a neutron bomb. That was supposedly in 2010. The film opens some years later when District 13 is now in control of power over the government and the ‘bad police’ are attempting to destroy the area and rebuild according to their greedy plans. The action is the story and the action is immensely exciting! David Belle invented a discipline known as Parkour, which consists of moving quickly and efficiently in any environment, using only the abilities of the human body, and though his acting credits are minimal, he is stupefying in his live action role. Belle and Raffaelli are the reasons to watch this thriller as their screen chemistry is magnetic. Other standout performances in the film include the much tattooed Elodie Yung as Tao (the principal gang queen), Philippe Torreton as the much oppressed President, and the evil appearing Daniel Duval as the nemesis who turns the keys of the plot.

The cinematography is superb, the musical score is French rap music that while it suits the mood of the film becomes irritating in its repetitiveness. In all this is an escape film that is high on excitement is not very high on intelligent dialogue. But put Bell and Raffaelli together and the combustion is authentically credible.

Review by gradyharp

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