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District B13

Escape From Paris

Quality tongue-in-cheek action flicks set in dark, dystopian futures have been woefully absent from the big screen in recent years. John Carpenter specialized in this kind of film and elevated it to a genre of sorts with films like Escape From New York and Escape From LA. Thankfully, French director Pierre Morel steals a page from Carpenter’s book and injects it with a frenetic spin to create one of the best action films in recent years, District B13.

District B13 is a reference to a French ghetto overrun by criminals, thugs, and other unsavory types. Things have gotten so bad that the French government has erected an ‘isolation’ wall around said ghetto to keep criminal behavior contained. Director Morel starts things off with a bang as District B13’s resident vigilante, Leito (David Belle) finds himself on the run from a ruthless druglord’s henchmen.

Leito does much more than just run, however. Leito fights, leaps, dances, and evades his pursuers in a manner that would make Michael Flatley (aka Lord of the Dance) weep. One quickly forgets about story, characters, or any other objective criteria used to evaluate a film in the wake of David Belle’s amazing onscreen moves.

But, there’s more to District B13 than fancy footwork. It’s no War and Peace, but the story is compelling enough for an action flick. After a rogue nuke falls into the hands of the aforementioned sinister druglord. Damien (Cyril Raffaelli), an ace member of an elite police squadron is tagged for nuke rescue detail.

Unfortunately, he needs the help of someone who knows the lay of the land. Fortunately, Leito’s got some time on his hands and ample motivation to assist Damien as said druglord happens to have Leito’s sister hostage. Let the beautifully orchestrated mayhem begin.

Complimenting District B13’s staggering onslaught of jaw dropping acrobatics, bullets, fisticuffs, and dark humor is some decent acting. Leito’s grown up in the ghetto his whole life and is sufficiently hardened as a result. Likewise, he is appropriately resentful of the French government that keeps him confined in the quagmire that is District B13. David Belle convincingly conveys Leito’s hardened cynicism.

Damien is not as intriguing of a character as a straight arrow man of the law, but he’s not a knucklehead either. As he journeys deeper into District B13 with Leito, he comes to realize the French government giving him his orders may have ulterior motives. Cyril Raffaelli does a serviceable job as a glorified policeman whose ultimate loyalties are to enforcing the law.

While the deluge of summer, blockbuster action films has yet to be fully unleashed, District B13 is the kind of film that has the potential to stand out from the rest. District B13’s solid characters, witty dialogue, and awe inspiring fight sequences should satiate the most voracious action fan.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars