District 13 (15)



Action (2005)
84mins Fr/Thai

Starring: David Belle, Cyril Raffaelli, Bibi Naceri, Dany Verissimo
Director: Pierre Morel
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

In the not too distant future, society has fractured. The wealthy and the powerful are kept safely apart from the more undesirable elements of society by various Districts: walled communities, patrolled by the police, in which crime and corruption run rampant. When criminal Leito crosses kingpin Taha, he almost pays with his life - instead, Taha kidnaps Leito's young sister and lands the brother with a lengthy spell in jail. A chance for revenge soon presents itself: Taha is in possession of a stolen nuclear weapon, which the police are keen to reappropriate. However, the authorities do not have the intimate knowledge of District 13, necessary for a successful infiltration. So undercover cop Damien joins forces with Leito to break into the area.

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LondonNet Film Review

District B 13
David Belle, one of the creators of the spectacular, gravity-defying extreme sport of Le Parkour (aka Free Running), showcases his supreme physical prowess in the futuristic action romp District 13...

DAVID BELLE (behind) as Leito in DISTRICT 13 directed by PIERRE MOREL. Copyright Momentum Pictures Created in the suburbs of Paris, Le Parkour combines elements of gymnastics and martial arts, allowing practitioners to navigate urban jungles by leaping across rooftops and scaling walls, treating cityscapes like some giant obstacle course. Proponents have elevated this art of movement to a global phenomenon - Belle dazzled television audiences back in 2002 by sprinting across the London skyline in a mesmerizing promo for BBC1.

In cinematographer Pierre Morel's directorial debut, the art form's spectacular array of jumps and somersaults looks nothing short of jaw-dropping. The film opens with its biggest and arguably best action set piece, following Belle's anti-hero at breakneck speed as he attempts to outrun his pursuers by ricocheting through dingy corridors and along rooftops, defying the laws of physics without breaking sweat. Breathless camerawork and slick editing leave us teetering precariously on the edge of our seats.

Nothing else in District 13 comes close to this tour-de-force exhibition of acrobatics. In particular, the explosive finale is a massive anti-climax. In the not too distant future, society has fractured beyond repair. The wealthy and the powerful are kept safely apart from more undesirable elements of society by various Districts: walled communities, patrolled by the police, in which crime and corruption are allowed to run rampant.

When criminal Leito (Belle) crosses kingpin Taha (Bibi Naceri), he almost pays with his life - instead,Taha kidnaps Leito's young sister (Dany Verissimo) and lands the brother with a lengthy spell in jail. A chance for revenge eventually presents itself: Taha has taken possession of a stolen nuclear weapon, which the police are keen to re-appropriate. However, the authorities do not have the intimate knowledge of District 13, necessary for a successful infiltration.

So short-tempered undercover cop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) joins forces with Leito to break into District 13 and penetrate Taha's defences, rescue the girl and halt the weapon's launch sequence before half of Europe is reduced to rubble. With a ludicrous plot borrowed from James Bond's old escapades, District 13 relies on the impressive physicality of the two leads to hold our interest in the absence of rigorous character development.


Belle and Raffaelli flex their muscles and obliterate the supporting cast with furious abandon, kicking, punching and tumbling out of trouble. When they pause for breath, to spout the perfunctory dialogue, the film grinds to a halt but thankfully with a mere 84 minutes to fill, director Morel is more concerned with thrills than deep emotion.

Sophie Abell


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