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Banlieue 13 – Ultimatum

tn_b13uSo I watched this poorly subtitled Chinese import of BANLIEUE 13 – ULTIMATUM, which I think is about to be released dubbed in the US as DISTRICT 13: ULTIMATUM, the sequel to what we call DISTRICT B13, which pretty much translates to “District District 13.” This one reunites Cyril Rafaelli (last seen tossed into a fan by John McClane) and David Belle for more near-future parkour and martial arts action.

It’s 3 years later and the government has made good on its promise for regime change, but nothing else. The district is still walled in, and the cops still treat everybody like shit. Leito (Belle) doesn’t want to let it go so he has a hobby of strolling around casually attaching bombs to walls and blowing shit up. Then he gets chased by cops and the gangs, or “clans,” get pissed at him because they sort of like their lives behind the walls and don’t want him fucking it up.

mp_b13uBut some scary dudes who we later find out are from “Harriburton” have a plan to cause havoc in B13 so they can convince the president to bomb it and then they can rebuild, like they did in Iraq. A kid hands Leito a tape that exposes the plot, and meanwhile Captain Damien Tomaso (Rafaelli) is getting set up by other cops so he won’t get in the way of their conspiracy. Nice try, assholes.

One great moment is when Leito gets a voicemail from Tomaso. He’s already in a predicament – he’s just discovered what the tape is that got handed to him, and enemies are right outside his door about to storm in and try to kill him. Now all the sudden this cop who helped him 3 years ago says he’s locked up in the police station and knows he can count on him to help. It’s a nice honor moment – yes, I will bust you out of jail, if you ask me to in a voicemail. So sure enough he goes and gets himself arrested, and the chase is on.

These guys are great because just based on looks I’m not sure they’d cut it. Rafaelli’s a funny looking skinny bald guy, Belle has his spiky hair and babyface peering out behind the overcompensating tattoos. But they act like brooding badasses and you can’t laugh because more than with most people in movies you know it’s fucking real. Rafaelli is stunt coordinator for most Besson movies, Belle is the co-founder of parkour. For them the acting is the stunt work.

For some reason Leito’s sister doesn’t return (except when it replays the end of the first one at the beginning). K2 isn’t back because the actor who played him died. (That’s for the guy on IMDb who was disappointed that K2 wasn’t back.)

It’s not as fresh as in the first one, but there’s a comparable amount of parkour chases and well-choreographed fights. Lots of jumping off roofs, stepping off walls, leaping down stairs, sliding down slopes, hopping through windows. The graceful way Rafaelli jumps feet first through a car window makes the Duke boys look like — well, even more like a couple of crude rednecks. There’s a real good fight with a new character, a female clan leader with alot of attitude in her moves and a blade on the end of her long hair braid.

But I have to say, it’s a little disappointing how close they followed the template of the first one. Once again Tomaso is introduced deep in a criminal lair having to fight his way out (though this time in drag, and using a Picasso Van Gogh as a weapon and shield – one of the best bits). Once again there’s an intentional jail-entry and escape. The president is nice this time but naive, surrounded by the same type of corrupt assholes who look down on the poor.

It’s a good recipe and I enjoyed it for what it was, but I think they should’ve tried to take it up a notch. One thing you gotta respect about Tony Jaa and his guys – they don’t just pump ’em out, because they’re always trying to top themselves. In ONG BAK they put Thailand on the action movie map. In TOM YUM GOONG/THE PROTECTOR they upped the ante on elephant stunts and and that unforgettable one-take battle up the stairs. For ONG BAK 2 they went even further with the elephants and Jaa learned several new fighting styles and weapons skills. Each movie pushing ahead, trying to blow you away with something you haven’t seen before. With DB13-U I wish I’d seen some of that initiative, trying to make the greatest parkour chase on film so far. Instead they were content with more of the same.

SPECIAL PEOPLE WHO HAVE ALREADY SEEN IT SPOILER SECTION

Man, that’s a pretty crazy ending though, huh? I can’t believe they went for that. It’s kind of like if at the end of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD they stopped the government from nuking the town, then got appointed to the city council, then voted to go ahead and nuke it after all. Weird. And I don’t know how they’re gonna do a part 3, because what are they gonna have to parkour on?

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 at 3:38 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to “Banlieue 13 – Ultimatum”

  1. I liked this one, too, and I agree it lacks some of the freshness of the first one. Still awesome to see Cyril Rafaelli jumping about all over the place and kicking people. At this point I’d like to see Rafaelli strike out on his own as an action star and maybe leave the parkour behind.

    If they do another one, though, they could always move the action to South Africa for District 13: Port Of Call: District 9.

  2. I liked the firts one . Well , I enjoyed the action , but the humor and the more laid back moments didn’t work for me in the first movie . I don’t know , maybe is the French weirdness factor , but the first one had the same problems as Taxxi , only on a much smaller scale . I’m not really interested in parkour , but I enjoy it in small doses in movies . Don’t get me wrong , I admire the work of these two gentlemen ( and even Sebastien Foucan ) , but I prefer straight up action/martial arts coreography . Like Panna Rittikrai’s Muay Thai Stunt crew.
    Speaking of Panna Rittikrai , I’ve seen the trailer for Ong Bak 3 and it’s good . More elephant jumping goodness !

  3. Totally agree. A very good action movie in its own right, but lacking the shock of the new that the original had, without replacing it with a real escalation of themes or stuntwork. But I can watch parkour all fucking day so it didn’t really bug me much. It’s like saying this ice cream cone doesn’t really improve much on the last ice cream cone I had.

  4. Damn, I thought you were gonna bitch about all the shaky cam non-sense. The first chase was awful can’t-understand-what’s-going-on bullshit. Maybe I’m being too hard on it, but for my money it was way inferior to the original, and couldn’t get past all the CGI and visual cheating (which the first one didn’t have). Wasn’t a Van Gogh though?

  5. Diego – I didn’t think it was too bad, but you’re right, the action was not shot as coherently as in the first one. Also I think you’re right about the painting, I’ll fix that.

  6. It was kind of “old school” sequel making – keep the same formula, but on a larger scale.

    Something to look forward to – Cyril Raphaelli is making a movie with Scott Adkins…

  7. “There’s a real good fight with a new character, a female clan leader with alot of attitude in her moves and a blade on the end of her long hair braid.”
    Yeah, I think the bit where a guy tries to sweep her, and she just casually raises one leg up over rather than jumps is really effective in communication what she’s like.
    I also thought it was weird they reminded you about the sister only to not have her. More so with Tomaso’s girlfriend, who literally has one scene and isn’t shown again. Was she just there to counteract the bromance with Leito?
    I also liked how we saw multiple distinct gangs, instead of just the one dominant one we got in the original.

    SPOILER

    “And I don’t know how they’re gonna do a part 3, because what are they gonna have to parkour on?”
    I thought it was pretty obvious. If they’re going to rebuild, then there could be a TON of construction sites and half-finished buildings in the district for them with all sorts of easily justified unusual setups for them to (apartments with incomplete floors/roofs/walls, cranes, construction tools/vehicles etc.).

  8. ^for them to Parkour on

  9. Vern, do you have Comcast or anything that shows VOD? They’ve got this one, just recently had Red Cliff, Paintball (horror movie), and they’ve got Warlords coming soon. They’re really showing some great DTV / foreign stuff lately.

  10. Yeah, I liked this one too, even though it’s basically more of the same.

    Vern, now that you’re into French movies, how about trying the new Largo Winch movie, starring Tomer Sisley as Largo. It’s quite good, with some Bourne style camerawork and good action sequences (especially the finale). You’d like it.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0808339

  11. I just happened to watch this last night. I was pretty disappointed myself. I agree that it didn’t try to top the last one. I felt like there wasn’t any really amazing action sequences… I kept waiting for it and it seemed like it never came. And the ending seemed really anti-climatic… like all the gangs just showed up to lecture or something. The Van Gogh fighting was kind of cool and there was at least one decent parkour chase. And that Asian woman gang leader was just too cheesey. I mean I expect that sort of thing from a movie like this, but all the clan leaders together at the end made me think of superhero team or something.

  12. Yeah – the speech they give to the bad-guy at the end about how they love living in the ghetto, it’s almost like they rehearsed it beforehand….

  13. Hugely disappointing in every respect. I think “more of the same” is too kind – it’s rather “two steps back”. Why were the action scenes so few and far between? Why was there only one real parkour chase? Why were the action scenes so poorly edited and shot? Why was there no big fight/climax at the end with the main villains? How come NOBODY could lay a finger on these dudes? (Seriously, these guys were more untouchable than Silver-Era Seagal)

    The plot with the dirty cops and the Rodney King videotape stuff was positively low-rent compared to the Escape From New York -stakes of the first one. It’s only the end that makes it feel like a sequel. And speaking of which….

    SPOILER
    Uhhh…I thought they hinted that the buildings were NOT evacuated. So did the heroes just wipe out a whole bunch of innocent people? And will Harriburton end up rebuilding the projects anyway or what?

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