Monday Movie: District 13
In the not-too-distant future (well, actually, 2010) the French government walls off the most crime-ridden banlieues and withdraws all public services from those within - including law enforcement. But when the crime lord who rules over Banlieue 13 gets his hands on the worst possible loot, maverick cop Damien (stunt man and martial artist Cyril Raffaelli) is forced to team up with local vigilante Leïto (David Belle, founder of parkour) in a race against the clock to get into the district and prevent catastrophe.
Although Luc Besson has directed an extremely diverse array of films, from surreal love stories to science fiction epics, the films that he writes and produces tend to fit a certain mould. Okay, Taxi, The Transporter and Kiss of the Dragon may be rather different shades of action movie, but they're all cut-down thrill rides with slightly woolly plots and a surprisingly strong emotional core. District 13 definitely ticks all the boxes, but if you haven't been sold on the style before, perhaps the world's first freerunning action movie can tempt you into the fold.
As with many cinematographers who take the director's chair, Pierre Morel shoots a good looking film, depicting the urban decay of his setting, and the tattooed, shaven-headed machismo of his actors with perfect framing and loving attention to detail, while the adrenalin-pumping action sequences are finely edited into quick-fire roller coasters where it's nevertheless still easy to make out what's happening. And thanks to that little pinch of Besson magic, the cast is strong, and the characters memorable - whether you're cheering them on, or booing and hissing. My only complaints are that the sole female character is stuffed pretty deep into the refrigerator, and the two stonking great action scenes that introduce David and Cyril respectively easily outshine much of what follows.