Review: District B13 (2004)

Directed by:
Cast: , , , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

Warning: District B13 is not an Asian film. It is made by French filmmakers, and it stars French actors. No doubt some of our readers will be asking: what is the review of this film doing on Heroic Cinema, the guide to Asian movies in Australia? Well, keep reading if you’re curious to find out the reason behind this madness!

The story is set in Paris. Faced with rampant crime in certain districts, the government authorises the construction of isolated walls around ‘high risk’ cities. One such area is District B13, which is ruled by a powerful criminal. Damien is an elite policeman, and Leito is a prisoner who grew up in District B13. Together, they enter the dangerous district in search of a missing bomb…

The script is rather simple, and there are quite a few plot holes if you think through it. However, this does not matter really, because the pace of the film is so fast that viewers do not really get a chance to stop and think. Also, the plot is merely a means of providing the stars with opportunities to show off their amazing physical abilities and the art of Parkour (a technique which consists of getting from point A to B using the simplest and most efficient way). No one is going to even think twice when they hear lines like ‘experimental scatter-type bomb based on neutron technology’, for example, when they are focussed on watching the characters jumping over, between or through various obstacles. The actors carry out the stunts in a seemingly effortless manner, and with a lot of ease and accuracy. One leap and the guy is on the rooftop of another building. It is simply incredible.

The acting by the two lead stars is average at best, but their physical abilities more than make up for their limited acting skills. The supporting cast give strong performances, and Tony D’Amario and Bibi Naceri (a screenwriter for the film) are both convincing as gangsters. Newcomer Dany Verissimo, who plays Leito’s sister, manages to steal the scene every time her face appears on screen, and I believe she has the potentials to become a major star.

would like to make a special mention that the original idea for District B13 came from French filmmaker Luc Besson, who was also one of the screenwriters for the film. The reason for mentioning Besson is that he directed Leon (also known as The Professional), my all time favourite English language film. If you have read any of my reviews and find that you share my taste in movies, Leon is a film that you should definitely check out.

Now, let’s bring the focus back to District B13, the subject of this review. Yes, it is not an Asian film. But the death-defying stunts should remind viewers of movies starring Jackie Chan in his younger days, and the exciting and incredibly fast chase scenes are just as impressive as those in Ong Bak. And perhaps most importantly, you wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a cool movie just because it’s not from Asia, would you?

8 bullets through the squeaking car door out of 10.
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