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District B13

Banlieue 13, Directed by Pierre Morel, 2004

I was first introduced to David Belle a year or two ago by the open-ended athletic arena he invented, parkour. You've seen parkour and probably don't even know it. You've probably even seen David Belle in a commercial or two and don't know it. He is the guy who can go from the bottom of a building to the top of the building without ever going inside the building. And then he'll jump onto the roof of another building just because he can.

Banlieue 13 is his first vehicle as an action star and this movie will cause him to break out onto the action scene faster than this breakout from the movie. David Belle and his co-star Cyril Raffaelli are at the top of their game in this movie. The athleticism displayed in this movie by these two is practically peerless these days (in westernized cinema at least). Jet Li and Jackie Chan are certainly capable of it, but the type of action films they do these days are so painfully choreographed that it limits their abilities. Tony Jaa displayed it in Ong-Bak, but the movie had its fair share of flaws.

But unlike Ong-Bak, this movie actually has interesting characters. The plot? In the future the French have developed such a problem with crime areas that they have created designated ghettos outside of Paris, where all the inhabitants are trapped inside by gigantic walls. So yes, the plot may not make a whole lot of sense, especially once a neutron bomb is introduced into it, but the characters create an interest in the story that the plot dumbs down. David Belle plays Leito, an inhabitant inside Banlieue 13 (borough 13) who is one of the few inside who aren't criminals. He gets put in jail on the outside for trying to do the right thing on the inside. Six months later, Damien (Cyril Raffaelli), a special forces commander, is forced to take Leito back into the ghetto to disarm the stolen bomb. Summarizing the story like that makes it sound even more generic than it is, but it is perfectly manageable and watchable in context to the film. Either way, people don't watch movies like this because of the plot. They want to see these human columns of muscle barrelling through walls. They want to see necks and windows alike being broken left and right. Banlieue 13 more than provides the broken limbs and adrenaline action movies must come with.

Luc Besson, the film's producer and co-writer, is a fan favorite in the action genre and this film is just another stellar example of why people respect him so much. He has a nack for cutting through the fat. There is no bull**** in this movie. There are no wires. There are no mats. Just raw talent.

The cinematography is slick. The sound editing is spot on. The soundtrack is typical of these types of films (generic sounding techno), but towards the end I was hoping for a change in musical pace. I'm not positive, but the same song may have just been looped throughout the whole movie. But you really can't complain too much about the music when David Belle is soaring through the air. And David Belle can actually act. I'm sure his whole being in this movie was because of his athletic ability, but he is actually very capable of doing things other than kicking someone in the face while hanging out of a window. And Cyril Raffaelli is damned beast in this film. I've dropped Belle's name more often than Cyril's in this review, but that is simply because I'm more familiar with Belle. Cyril probably kicks even more ass in this film than Belle does. They are certainly one of the greatest duos to fight onscreen in years.

The One Sentence Review - What Banlieue 13 lacks in solid, logical plot it more than makes up for in good 'ole fashion ass kickery.

Oh, and I gurantee the wheels are already in motion to have these two team up against Tony Jaa from Ong-Bak for some kind of extreme battle to the death. Count me in!