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District 13: Ultimatum

Escape From Paris

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Every once in awhile, an action film is released that elevates violence to a veritable art form. In 2006, a small French action flick called District B13 hit the screens and riveted from nearly start to finish with some of the most creative, parkour-infused action sequences ever seen. Its sequel, District 13: Ultimatum, arrives with as much, if not more, parkour-infused action as the original.

District 13 is a cesspool of a ghetto, rife with violence, crime, and a plethora of thugs running things behind a wall constructed by the French government. If you’ve seen John Carpenter’s cheesy classic Escape From New York, District 13 will feel familiar. District 13 has become more violent and chaotic than ever. Corrupt government officials have insidious plans to raze it and rebuild and profit in the process.

Amidst this nefarious plot are Leito (David Belle) and Damien (Cyril Raffaelli). These two hooked up in the first film to bring down a ganglord, and once again they find themselves working together to stop the razing of District 13.

Belle and Rafaelli are spectacular to watch in action. Belle is actually the founder of parkour, so not surprisingly, his action scenes are heavily reliant on being chased and creatively evading the law enforcement officials he runs into. It is mesmerizing to watch Belle in action as he leverages everything at his disposal and in the vicinity to thwart his would-be captors.

Not to be outdone, Raffaelli is less of an acrobat and more of a blunt instrument. But, he’s no less creative in dispatching the glut of government thugs/henchmen who walk right into his fists (or feet or head).

As was the case with the original film, there is a reasonable enough story — penned by Luc Besson — to hold things together, but it’s not terribly rich. Besson does manage to throw in more than a few jabs at the French and U.S. government, which are good for a number of laughs throughout the film.

District 13: Ultimatum is no epic but director Patrick Alessandrin manages to deliver a solidly entertaining action film that also provides some dark laughs. Amidst dramatic, sober Oscar contenders, District 13: Ultimatum is a comparatively light, escapist palate cleanser that holds your attention for most of its runtime.