Thursday, February 4, 2010

District 13: Ultimatum (FRENCH)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Disappointing Sequel Fails to Measure up to Original

In 2006, District B-13 arrived from France riding a wave of well-deserved critical acclaim. In fact, I was so impressed that I named that action-oriented directorial debut by Pierre Morel the #1 foreign film of the year. So excuse me for anticipating more of the same from this eagerly-anticipated sequel, especially since it was based on another script by Luc Besson and because co-stars David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli would both be reprising their roles.
However, Morel, who proved that District B-13 was no fluke when he followed it up with the equally-riveting Taken, was not signed to shoot the sequel. Instead, he was replaced here by Patrick Allesandrin who may have four prior feature films under his belt, but none in the high-impact thriller genre. And it shows.
The best thing about the original was its acrobatic fight sequences, starting with that eye-popping, opening chase scene. So, as District 2 unfolds, you’re naturally expecting another spectacular series of stunts right after the credits. But we’re forced to wait so long that by the time it finally arrives it feels a tad anticlimactic.
The story is set in Paris in 2013, in a slum area deeply divided along ethnic lines, with African, white and Asian gangs vying for control of the local narcotics trade. Soon after the point of departure, Police Captain Damien Tomaso (Raffaelli) is seemingly inexplicably framed by crooked colleagues and winds up behind bars. So, it falls to anti-drug crusader Leito (Belle) to spring the honest cop from jail; so the two can clean up the district by employing a combination of martial arts and parkour moves, the latter being a ballet-like, flight discipline emanating from France.
However, the plot thickens considerably when our heroes catch wind of a diabolical government plan to bomb the ghetto and turn the land over to avaricious real estate developers with gentrification in mind. At that juncture, Damien and Leito enter an unholy alliance with the local hoodlums to save the dilapidated district.
The rabid rainbow coalition proceeds to take on the corrupt politicians and gendarmes behind the evil scheme. Finally the action picks up, especially with the help of Tao (Elodie Yung), a ravenous beauty capable of dispatching dudes with a twirl of her deadly, waist-length mane.
Is District 13: Ultimatum bad? Not by a long shot. Just disappointing if you’re expecting this adventure to measure up to the original.

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, violence and drug use.
In French with subtitles.
Running time: 101 Minutes
Distributor: Magnet Releasing

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