Tuesday, July 11, 2006

DISTRICT 13/BANLIEUE 13 - guns, cars, violence, insults!

DISTRICT 13 takes its name from a super-rough Parisien suburb. We are asked to imagine that in four year’s time (the movie is notionally set in 2010, although it is resolutely NOT a sci-fi movie) the district will have become entirely over-run by a drug-lord called Taha. Taha keeps a private army and ammo supply big enough to march on the government should he so choose. The government decides that it is incapable of policing the area and builds a wall around i, literally making it a ghetto. The movie takes a look at what happens when an idealistic guy and his hard-as-nails sister mess with the drug-lord, not to mention an under-cover cop on the hunt for a missing bomb.

Clearly, DISTRICT 13 is not a “great film” whatever that may mean, but it does get a lot of the basics right. It has memorably eccentric characters – bent cops, dumb-ass gangsters and an especially colourful underground Casino owner. It has a tight, linear plot that uses all the conventions of the gangster-thriller but gives them a couple of cool twists. It has awesome fight scenes similar to those in ONG BAK – high-amp physical dexterity rather than too much CGI or wire-fu. And to cap it all off, the sound-track is kind of like a French version of the Chemical Brothers. At the best of times, it feels like the coolest video game you ever played. And if violent video games aren’t your thing, you should probably give this a miss.

In a summer of wanky over-blown dull-as-tooth-ache blockbusters it is nice to get back to some superficial slick violence at last. DISTRICT 13 delivers just that. Sure, it may pull its punch with a slushy final five, but at least it has the humility to get its bad bits over quickly.
Jerry Bruckheimer should take note.

DISTRICT 13/BANLIEUE 13 opened in France back in 2004 and has been on release practically everywhere since. It is available on Region 3 DVD and is also playing at cinemas in the UK.

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