District 13: Ultimatum

District 13: Ultimatum

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Doing the same sort of thing for free running that Jackie Chan did for chop-socky action, comes this Gallic action sequel to District 13. For those not in the know, free running – or parkour as our rather more romantic French cousins term it – involves, generally speaking, running about like a loon through urban landscapes and leaping tall buildings in a single bound but without the aid of super-powers or a safety net.

For top practioners like David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli – reprising their lead roles from the original film - this means effortlessly creating the sort of stunts that audiences left jaded by the fake look of many CGI manoeuvres will find adrenaline-inducing.

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As for the plot – it has leapt off a building and failed to reach the other side. Thankfully, it's not important to your enjoyment but, for those who really must know, vaguely involves Belle and Raffaelli – as streetwise Leito and cop Damien – being forced to team up to thwart a plan to blow up buildings, and citizens, of the walled-off Paris ghetto named District 13.

The story is so secondary to the action, in fact, that the opening half an hour, which sees Leito trying to blow holes in the District 13 wall and Damien taking out a raft of drug dealers with just the use of his hands and a Van Gogh painting, has nothing at all to do with it. Still, it makes for some exciting and wryly amusing fight scenes, even if the amped up electro pop music and odd decision on the part of director Patrick Alessandrin to replay one or two of the key stunts ,just in case you missed them the first time, are a bit too much.

While Belle and Raffaelli don't quite have the level of charm that Chan and Chris Tucker brought to the Rush Hour films, or the sardonic coolness Kris Kristofersson gave Snake Plissken in the similarly dystopian Escape From New York, they're still chirpy enough chaps with enough acting ability and deadpan to get by, while the fact that Leito, in particular, seems destined to operate almost continually without a shirt will be seen as a plus point for many female fans.

A lack of undergarments abounds, since, when our unlikely heroes team up with the heads of the various D13 underworld, we meet Tao (Elodie Yung), a leader so hard - and manga influenced - that she beats people up in hot pants using little more than a hair accessory and without the aid of a bra.

The acting in the expositional scenes - from Phillipe Torreton as the French President and Daniel Duval in the bad guy role - is very stagey and static, but thankfully these interludes never last long enough to get in the way of the next exhilarating set-piece. If you like your action comic-book style, with the emphasis more on slapstick than on blood and gore, this silly but slick sequel is a great way to get your fix.

Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2009
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District 13: Ultimatum packshot
A pair of unlikely heroes try to stop bombs being detonated in a Paris ghetto.
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