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District 13

Welcome to District 13, Welcome to the future 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from District 13

Director: Pierre Morel

Starring: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D'Amario, Bibi Naceri, Dany Verismo

Attention Francophiles! Workaholic writer and producer Luc Besson scores another hit with this idiosyncratic and inspired action flick. The story is the kind of high concept trashy brilliance that you might expect from the man responsible for Taxi, Danny the Dog and The Transporter, and that used to pack multiplexes not so very long ago.

Set in the near future in the built up areas of Paris, the film revolves around the worst of these suburbs, District 13, controlled by Taha (Naceri), a vicious drug baron, and his cartel. Taha steals a neutron bomb and triggers a countdown timer that will detonate it in 24 hours, wiping out the district's residents. The only man who can prevent a catastrophe is Captain Damien Tomaso (Raffaelli), part of an elite police unit specially trained in martial arts and (most importantly) free running. His only hope of success rests in turn on local vigilante Leito (David Belle), who knows the area blindfolded and happens to have a serious beef with Taha.

The spectacular action is a cut above and is what sets this film apart from nine tenths of generic action movies. The audacity of the stunt work bears comparison to Ong Bak for its inventiveness and daring. Those of you familiar with Parkour or Free Running will have an idea of what to expect and may recognise Belle, the founder of Parkour, but the feats performed without wirework or CGI in this film really do have to be seen to be believed.

First time director Pierre Morel shows a good deal of panache and visual invention, making a lot of Hollywood's recent output look pedestrian by comparison. Morel is clearly at ease within the action genre and alternates adroitly between furiously paced action set pieces and comedy that is broad enough to bridge the language gap. The film exhibits the kind of hyperactive, hyperkinetic editing and thumping techno score familiar from other European action films like Dobermann and Run Lola Run. It is this pedigree of action film into which District 13 sits comfortably, revelling in the glories of the form without getting bogged down in plot and characterisation.

Will McLeod

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Spring Term (35mm)