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Review by
Kelly Parks

District B13
Europa Corp. / TF1 Films Productions / Canal+
Rating: Canada: 14A / Finland: K-15 / France: -12 / Germany: 18 / Ireland: 15A / Portugal: M/16 / Singapore: NC-16 / Switzerland: 16 / Taiwan: R-18 / UK: 15 / USA: R

Some people think I’m anti-French because I make fun of them so much (the French – not the people who accuse me of being anti-French). The French do annoy me sometimes because of their reputation for being so damn snooty, but that is just a stereotype so maybe I should be more open minded. That’s why I decided to see a French film.

DISTRICT B13 was directed by Pierre Morel and written by Bibi Naceri (LA MENTALE) and Luc Besson (LA FEMME NIKITA, THE PROFESSIONAL). It’s just barely science fiction (in the social science fiction category) because it takes place in 2013. It’s also a funny action thriller according to the DVD case, if you’re curious about categories. I’ll let you know in a while if any of those claims are true.

The riots and uprisings among the "youths" (i.e. Muslim youths) in France over the last few years is well known. During the last one police lost control of parts of many cities and thousands of cars were torched. So in this vision of the near future the problem is contained by putting walls around these uncontrollable districts, keeping the lawless inside so the law abiding will be safe.

District B13, in the heart of Paris, is run by gangs and gang violence is a constant threat inside the containment wall. Gun toting gang soldiers are everywhere as people try their best to live their lives.

Leito (David Belle: FEMME FATALE) desperately tries to destroy a large amount of heroin by washing it down the drain in his tub. A car pulls up outside his heavily guarded building and K2 (Tony D'Amario: LAST HOUR), a dangerous man from a rival gang, gets out. He and his troops force their way inside and Leito makes a run for it.
And when I say run, man you’ve got to see it to believe it. Actor David Belle is the inventor of the event/activity called "parkour" (the art of displacement). Parkour involves moving as fast as you can through an urban environment using your surroundings. In other words, jumping from roof tops, climbing the sides of buildings, etc., and doing it all very fast. It’s awesome to watch and this first chase scene through the buildings of the district sets the action tone for the rest of the movie.

K2's boss Taha (co-writer Bibi Naceri) isn’t happy about Leito getting away. He decides to kidnap Leito’s sister Lola (Dany Verissimo) hoping to force Leito to come rescue her. This doesn’t work out at all as Taha expects and he almost ends up in police custody, if only the police cared.

Meanwhile, on another story line, supercop Captain Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli: KISS OF THE DRAGON) takes down an illegal casino in an amazing action sequence of his own. He barely has time to rest when his bosses tell him they need him for a dangerous mission. An item has been stolen by a B13 gang and they need Damien to go in and find it. The item is a neutron bomb and the timer has been activated.

I think you can see where this is going. The cop needs a guide and who better than the misunderstood Leito. It’s a buddy picture. But cool action sequences aside, is it a good buddy picture? I’ll tell you in a minute because it’s time for a

Today the subject is social science and although I am far from a qualified social scientist, I’m going to make a prediction. There will be more and more movies made about crime and social breakdown in France in the years ahead. And the tone of the movies will change from sympathetic to the rioters (like this one) to decidedly unsympathetic as things get worse. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Find out if the science behind your favorite movie was real or bogus at THE SCIENCE MOMENT.

But I will say that this was a very cool funny action thriller! Amazing martial arts, parkour and the thrill of a ticking time bomb mixed with a troubled but fascinating society and an unlikely friendship kept me glued to the screen, even with subtitles. I give DISTRICT B13 four shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2003 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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