Banlieue 13

Update: The movie is now playing in North American theatres under the title District B13. Go see it on the big screen. June 2, 2006

I don’t post that many movie reviews anymore, but sometimes the people need to know. Banlieue 13 (imdb) is a French flick, so it’s not something you’re likely to find in Blockbuster or your local cornerstore. You’ll probably need to send a letter to your local movie distributor asking them to shape up or buy an import.

The movie’s pacing is intense; if the first five or ten minutes doesn’t have your jaw settled nicely on the floor you can have your money back. Banlieue 13 is set in the near future, in a gang-controlled Paris suburb that has been walled off from the rest of the city. Leito needs to team up with a cop to save his kidnapped sister and rescue the inhabitants from a neutron bomb detonation. Good setup? Sure, why not.

Leito jumping through window

Leito jumping between rooftops

Leito and Taha discussing business

Lola stuffing panties in thug's mouth

Damien doing the Jackie Chan thing

The film is the first for director Pierre Morel, although he has worked as cinematographer on The Transporter and Danny the Dog. Which offers a nice explanation for the highly saturated colours and kung-fu action style. The writer was Luc Besson, a prolific figure in terms of French action cinema; his presence should also offer some indication of what to expect.

The action is pretty amazing, it’s like watching a Jackie Chan kung-fu movie more than anything (complete with handcuffed to steering wheel action). Combine that with guns, fast cars, explosions, etc., etc. and it makes for a grand-ole time. And the movie is relatively short with most of the crap removed (Michael Bay could learn a thing or two). The dialogue is a little bit stilted, but it’s no worse than any Hollywood blockbuster.

Overall, it’s the best action flick that I’ve seen in a long time. The film isn’t meant to be a massive intellectual endeavour, but it’s interesting to watch in light on the recent unrest in the Paris suburbs. That’s enough out of me — find it, watch it, be entertained.