Review by Thomas Huff
There hasnít been a lot of advertising or press coverage for the new French action film, District B13, because itís a subtitled foreign film. But, aside from the subtitles, it feels far more like an American action film than the usual offerings from abroad. The film tries to get the adrenaline pumping with a ton of stylized action and real stunt work without the aid of wires or computers. Luc Besson (the guy the brought us The Professional, The Fifth Element, and the Transporter films) wrote and produced this film, but left the responsibility of capturing his surreal style to rookie director, Pierre Morel. B13 fuses Martial Arts with the surreal look we associate with Besson pictures, and sets it against the backdrop of a gang-ridden sector of Paris in the year 2010.
Meet leading man David Belle. You probably donít recognize the name unless youíre into the Parkour scene. Parkour? you ask? Yeah, I asked that too. Parkour is a sport / pseudo-martial art that B13 lead David Belle co-created. The French word parcour, roughly translates to ďobstacle course,Ē and the sport mainly involves moving oneís body around, over, under, or through obstacles one encounters in urban areas as fast as possible. Some also refer to it as, ďthe art of getting away.Ē Recently, it has started becoming quite popular in the U.S. as exemplified by American Parkourís 3,000 plus roster.
Itís always fun to watch people scamper up walls and seamlessly slide through impossibly small places, a la Jackie Chan or Tony Jaa. But, on top of performing crazy Parkourian stunts in B13, David Belleís acting isnít half bad, somehow finding a way to make the audience root for his character despite his imposing, tattoo-covered physique.
District B13 is everything The Transporter was supposed to be. Sure, the Transporters have style up the wazoo, but they have no heart. District B13 delivers on the style and the story to keep both your eyes and your brain involved in the adventure.
Notes: The theatrical release of this film is in French with English subtitles.
Also recommended The Kill Bills (2003-2004), Ong-bak (2003), The Professional (1994).
District B13 is written and produced by Luc Besson. It has a limited opening on June 2nd and is rated R for strong violence, some drug content and language.
©2006 Thomas Huff, BlownPotential.com