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"District B13"

Directed by Pierre Morel.
Written by Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri.
Starring Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Bibi Naceri and Tony D'Amario.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  6/8/06


All I knew about "District B13" was that it was a French film written and produced by action-man Luc Besson ("The Professional", "The Fifth Element", "La Femme Nikita").  With that, I rolled into the theater Tuesday night and saw what amounts to a French remake of "The Transporter" films, also produced by Besson.

Which isn't a bad thing, especially if you like sped-up chopsocky flicks that feature unintelligible stories and unforgiving, incessant violence.  This time, the setting is Paris in the near future, where certain violent neighborhoods have been walled to keep the petty street criminals contained in their own nasty environments.  Amongst the chaos, a group of decent guys, led by Leito (David Belle), are trying to keep District B13's largest gang, led by Taha (Bibi Naceri), from dealing drugs in Leito's part of the District.  Naturally, cops in this part of town are on the take, so instead of going after Taha, they let him run shit in B13, and after Leito is wrongly imprisoned for trying to take Taha down, the cops send in a one-man wrecking ball (Cyril Raffaelli, who looks EXACTLY like Jason Statham from behind and in long shots...hmm...) to get Leito and to save the world from a nuke that has somehow fallen into Taha's possession.

Whatever is happening, you know that a lot of people are getting their asses kicked, shot, impaled or worse, because director Pierre Morel (the cinematographer from the severely-underrated Jet Li flick "Unleashed" a couple of years back, as well as "The Transporter") sets up a pretty cool martial arts environment mixed with some decent gunplay to boot.  It's all happening so fast--even the dialogue seems sped up--that the film's short 83-minute running time even sounds too long.  Leads Belle and Raffaelli (the latter showed up in the best action scene from Li's awful "Kiss of the Dragon") look to be in good shape, as their stunt work is some mix of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and the moving-through-impossibly-narrow-spaces work of Tony Jaa, from "Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior."

The story is too preachy, the incompetence of the bad guys is something to behold (100 against 2 is always a fair fight in the movies, isn't it?), and the ending is kind of blah, but for something that hits you so hard and so fast, you don't mind some of these shortcomings.  You probably won't catch this in theaters unless you act fast, so add it to your Netflix queue and call it a day.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09