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Friday, February 5, 2010

District 13: Ultimatum (Banlieue 13: Ultimatum) Review
Three years after the events that brought Damien, a French policeman, and Leito, a street wise resident, of District 13 together to fight a gang overlord, Leito discovers a plot that leads to the destruction of the borough.

In the first movie District 13, the year was 2010 and the French government’s answer to quell the high crime area was to wall in residents without the benefits of normal Parisian civilization. After Damien and Leito saved the area from a power hungry warlord and a nuclear bomb, it was promised that the walls would come down. However, governments change and so do the promises made. District 13 has now deteriorated into racially divided ghettos full of guns and drugs with gang lords fighting each other for control . Leito tempts the ire of the police guarding the wall by trying to blow up sections of it. The different clan leaders want the wall to stay up content to keep their little fiefdom’s running.

The head of the French Internal Secret Service, Walter Gassman (Daniel Duval), sees wealth that can be made by destroying District 13 and building a middle class neighborhood. To encourage unrest and a reason to get rid of the area, his henchmen stage the murder of local police and blame it on the District 13 gangs. Damien is set up and sent to jail so that he can not interfere with the plans. Gassman convinces the President (Philippe Torreton) the only way to curb the riots is to evacuate the district and blow the whole thing to smithereens. The President doesn’t feel right about this plan but is unaware that he’s being manipulated by members of his government. Leito finds a recording of what really happened and has to break Damien out of jail. They band the clans together to fight to get out the truth before all is lost.

The original District 13 was directed and written by Pierre Morel and Luc Besson, who also collaborated on the recently released From Paris with Love. This sequel was written by Luc Besson but directed by Partick Alessandrin. The opening sequences are reminiscent of a video game, displaying an almost 3D image of District 13 and a Eur/ dance / hip-hop soundtrack. I expected any moment to see my avatar shooting everyone as they came on screen. The concept is like Escape from New York, but with no charismatic Kurt Russell-type and with totally better fighting.

Leito (Parkour originator David Belle) and Damien Tomasso (Cyril Raffaelli) once more display amazing feats of “free running” - an exhilarating exercise of using urban landscapes as a means to jump, leap and run. Go to YouTube to see examples of their skills which don’t involve wires, green screens, or stunt doubles. Whether it’s leaping feet first into an open car window, jumping off a building to another several stories lower, or leaping from one side to the other on an open stairway, Belle and Rafaelli keep the action moving so you don’t think too hard on their acting chops. It would have been fun if they included some outtakes of the stunts at the end. (Review by Reesa Cruz Hawkins of Dallas Movie Screenings)