District 13

aka DISTRICT B-13 (USA) aka BANLIEUE 13

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D’Amario, Bibi Naceri, Dany Verissimo
Director: Pierre Morel

2006 seems to be the summer of strange in filmdom!

For the past several years I have mentioned that the summer blockbuster was a thing of the past and that T2 was the last great example. I’d normally then go on to praise the fact that independent movie makers are the saviours of the movie industry and give thanks for “interesting, thought provoking indie films”. I thought this would obviously be the case again in 2006 as I’d already labelled it The Year Of The Remake/Sequel/Re-imagining.

2006 could have been 1977 the way things were shaping up remake wise and I pointed out that BRICK, the small indie movie released before these slew of so called blockbusters, should still be the best film by summers end. It gives me great pleasure to say that I was wrong, although BRICK is still one of my favourites. This has been the summer when the blockbuster returned with a vengeance with two of the best entrees from the stable in some time in the form of SUPERMAN RETURNS and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2: DEAD MAN’S CHEST. Although it’s true that these are CGI-tastic, the effects are flawless and the images (the sets of SUPERMAN/the realisation of the “Fish Men” on the Black pearl in DEAD MAN’S CHEST) simply fantastic; both films deservedly getting a 5 star rating on the pages of PHASE9.

So what of the much hyped indie movie DISTRICT 13, a big film by French standards (one of the most expensive made there I’m led to believe), a film “made for cultdom” as it was labelled after early screenings here in the UK, and therefore highly anticipated by the good Dr. himself. Well, it’s sad to say that this replaces the blockbusters I thought I’d be filing under the words “Disappointing”.

Although you can’t help but be impressed by the fitness and agility of the leads, it’s simply a mix of THE WARRIORS and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. It’s not a bad film but as said, simply a disappointing one after so much hype.

The story goes that in the near future the worst ghettos of Paris (it looks like parts of Paris 2006!), are literally walled off and among the worst is District B13 (ring a bell Snake Plisskin fans?). Controlled by the ruthless crime lord Taha (no not Isaac Hayes aka The Duke of New York in EFNY), a young righteous punk named Leïto decides to bring him down and end the corruption he sees all around him. The boss learns of this and retaliates by kidnapping his sister. Leïto is imprisoned by the corrupt police and waits for the day he can rescue his sister. Six months later, an undercover cop named Damien is given an urgent mission: a neutron bomb has been stolen by Taha in District B13 which has an automatic timer function engaged and set to detonate in less than 24 hours. Now with time running out, Damien and Leïto must work together to find and stop the bomb, rescue the aforementioned sister and avoid being sued by John Carpenter at all costs.

If you like gritty urban films, then this will be a five star movie as it hits all the right buttons. If you are into sci-fi you’ll see that these buttons have been hit so many times they no longer function in this context. However, if you’re not into impressive free jumping and very good stunts, then choose to watch the dubbed “English” version when it comes to DVD. This is the worst dubbing I have ever seen on any film and is funnier that Woody Allen’s WHAT’S UP TIGER LILLY, which did it on purpose. It may become a cult film on that basis alone, although I’m sure it will still have its fan’s out there – all around 13, the age I was when I saw the original it so obviously copies.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: In parts as grey and worn as the concrete city it’s set in but its good to see that real stunts by real people can still be far more effective and exiting than CGI.

3 out of 6 stars

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