District B13
All this effort to find a decent shirt to wear.

Theatrical Release Date: 11/10/2004 (France), 06/02/2006 (USA)
Director: Pierre Morel
Cast: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle

Sometimes I go into a theater, expecting an hour and a half of wasted celluloid and I come out wondering when the DVD will be released.

Such is the case of “District B13”, a French action film brought forth with the help of co-writer Luc Besson. Besson has a litany of great films full of wonder, style and near-super human action sequences.

Because of his pedigree, I figured the action would be pretty good but what surprised me is how little I was knocking the script and plot.

Sure it’s simple and over-the top: French government walls off dangerous sections of the city, crime lord in the worst section gets a hold of a neutron bomb, super cop enlists aid of kick-ass local to find the bomb and help him defuse it. Oh, and there’s a kidnapped sister to save too.

But while it’s a bit crazy, the energy and stunt sequences make the normally unbelievable plot okay. It didn’t matter that things didn’t quite make sense. What mattered was the fun had along the way.

The two main characters are played very well by Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle. They kick all sorts of ass. Room full of thugs? No problem. Cars trying to run you down? No problem. One super large man with the word “Yeti” scrawled across his cage door? Not much of a problem.

Helping them conquer all these obstacles are two factors: Raffaelli is an accomplished stunt man and fight coordinator and Belle is the co-founder of Parkour. Parkour is moving around the man-made city landscape like an animal through trees.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the kinds of stunts involved: jumping rooftops, sliding down pipes on the sides of buildings, insane acrobatics. All of it was done extremely well and had me going “damn” more than enough times to go through a bar of soap.

About the only disappointing thing about the action sequences is that there wasn’t a reel of failed stunts shown at the credits, a la Jackie Chan.

In supporting roles, Dany Verissimo does a nice job of being the hot, feisty sister who gets kidnapped and Bibi Naceri mugs for the camera in all the right ways as the crime boss (and he co-wrote the screenplay).

I really can’t see why the average action fan wouldn’t like this film. It’s a French film with English subtitles, so I suppose it helps if you can read. But other than that, if you like frenetic action, are a fan of Luc Besson, or both – you will have a good time with this film.

I also recommend trying to see it on a big screen to help with the scale of some of the stunts. A good projection setup or big screen TV will suffice as well I would imagine.

“District B13” gets a 3 out of 5. I’m tempted to go back and check it out again, especially because it won’t hurt my wallet to do so. This is the closest thing to a summer movie that’s come out so far. It was fun, mindless and full of action. Vive Luc Besson!