Fight Film Friday: District B13

Posted: December 10, 2010 in fight film friday
Tags: ,

Banlieue 13

“District B13”

France, 2004

Genre: Action, Dystopia

84 minutes

David Belle stars as an escaped convict guiding an undercover cop through the ghettos of Paris to deactivate an armed nuclear bomb.

It’s hard to imagine the parkour craze that swept the world happened only a few years ago, thanks in no small part to the founding of Youtube back in 2005. With traceur clubs sprouting up in cities everywhere, the film of Banlieue 13 secured an international release shortly thereafter, spreading the new sport even further. Boasting a high tempo soundtrack of French hip-hop and techno tracks, B13 is a fast-paced thrill ride with action sequences unlike anything seen before. There’s a certain stylized grittiness to the film, almost like a comic book movie, but with no CGI or wire-assisted stunts. The cinematography is above average, but it’s during the action sequences where it really shines. Everything moves and flows gorgeously from one shot to the next, even when using handheld cameras for the shaky effect.

More than anything, this is just a fun film to watch. The story itself is a little shaky, but the script is funny and the characters are immensely entertaining. It’s nice to see stuntman Cyril Raffaelli get some speaking time on camera, compared to his American appearances, and he makes good use of it here. David Belle gives a decent performance, which itself is pretty impressive for a non-actor as the lead. I imagine he was just having fun with the role, because he goes back and forth between bantering with Raffaelli and hamming it up for the camera. Still, the two leads have good chemistry on screen, making for a nice buddy picture dynamic to the whole thing. The supporting cast does well, with props given to the late Tony D’Amario for his role as right-hand baddie K2.

Up to its release, hardly anything like Belle’s work had been seen in theaters before. After, on the other hand, suddenly everyone from Bruce Willis to James Bond wanted in on the parkour action. It created a whole new venue of action to be explored, making this a landmark film in the truest sense of the phrase. Belle’s athleticism and agility are incredible, along with the rest of his stunt team. The chase choreography is a bit rough, but it doesn’t really detract from the actual performances. On the fight side of things, both the leads deliver some great scenes, including Raffaelli’s jaw-dropping fight through a casino. District B-13 is fast and fun, and represents the beginning for a whole generation of traceurs around the world. It’s definitely a must-see film for anyone.

  1. slideyfoot says:

    Did you have any thoughts on how they used the UFC as the epitome of violence, specifically the clip of Tank knocking out Nelmark? I mentioned that for some reason when I reviewed this film last year on my other blog, but I seem to remember it was only a very brief clip, so I was probably blowing it out of proportion.

    Still, I thought it was interesting that the UFC could still be used that way in 2004. Virtuosity did the same thing, upping the ante by putting in several fighters in at the same time IIRC, but that was way back in 1995, right near the early UFCs), and then there was Tank’s appearance in Friends two years later. It makes me wonder if that perception has changed, now that MMA in general and the UFC in particular has gradually moved into the mainstream after TUF in 2005.

    • Thomas says:

      As I recall, the clip of the UFC was very brief, a small insight into the man that Taha was. I wouldn’t call it being used as the epitome of violence, especially when Taha himself seems quick to kill off his henchmen when displeased.

      It’s funny that you mention the UFC’s rise in mainstream popularity, as I have a post on the way that talks about just that. Stay tuned!

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