District 13 Ultimatum
I believe it’s pronounced “yogging”.

Theatrical Release Date: 02/12/2010
Director: Patrick Alessandrin
Cast: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Philippe Torreton, Daniel Duval, Elodie Yung, MC Jean Gab’1

Okay, I’m a little confused about the movie title going on here … the original film in the series was released in the American market as “District B13” although the gurus at IMDb say that was the Canadian title (The Region 1 DVD even has the ‘B’ in the title). Now comes the sequel, which is getting released stateside as “District 13: Ultimatum”.

But whatever, the point is that if you see a 13 coming after the word ‘District’ you won’t be headed for South Africa to visit quarantined aliens, you’re bound for the much more foreign world of a future Paris where gangs have made the titular section of the city a violent landscape of drugs, guns and prostitution. And of course, because it’s a French action film, all of this comes from the mind of Luc Besson (full screenwriting credit this time).

In the first film, our heroes Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) and Leito (David Belle) managed to prevent the extermination of the district via high tech bomb by putting together their parkour (free running) skills and ferreting out the conspiracy behind it all. This time around, a conspiracy has cropped up in hopes of starting a series of riots in the district to force the President to destroy the area, thereby ridding Paris of the dregs inside the district’s walls and it’s up to the pair of them to stop it … again. So, same plot, different method.

While a quasi-rehashing of the plot is on the annoying side (as some may also find the not too subtle French jabs at how the American politics of war have played out), I’m not too perturbed by it all. The reason is that I don’t go into a film like this caring about the story – I want amazing stunts and fun, inventive fight/action scenes. On that end, “District 13: Ultimatum” delivers (aside from the opening scene of Leito running from the cops, which was low on the intensity scale and shot very poorly using a hand held camera when action like this is best served by keeping the frame steady (steadicam anyone?) and letting the stunt work speak for itself).

Both Damien and Leito get to show off their skills once again, utilizing new obstacles and objects turned makeshift weapons and they even get the help of local gang leaders who band together to stop the latest threat to their homes. This added element of teamwork amongst the criminals gave the film a nice boost of energy and made it different from the first. Though, it would have been nice to get more back story on each of the gang’s leaders, because they’re stereotypically hilarious and just one scene of each before they get introduced would have helped create a better sense of the effort it takes for them to suck up their pride and work with each other.

Also, the film takes it time to get to the good parts, trying to set up a story for the first 20 minutes or so when they’re much better off giving audiences more of the action they want (and what happened to Dany Verissimo? Leito’s sister in the first film, she gets shown in an opening flashback and then … nothing). Still, this was a welcome sequel to a surprisingly fun franchise and I’m hoping this isn’t the last that we see of Damien and Leito. Maybe next time though, they’ll get out of District 13 and tackle something a bit grander.

A 3.5 out of 5, “District 13: Ultimatum” is a surefire pick for those who liked the first film and the best action flick going right now. If you missed the first one, give it a look and see if this will fill your cup of tea (though you may need to hurry to see this on the big screen with its limited release).