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Magnolia nearly snuck this one past everyone with a virtually silent release. "District B13" deserved a lot more then what it was given in the advertising department.
Set in the near future, Paris is experiencing such violent crime and corruption in parts of the city that certain government officials decide to build walls around the worst parts...in an attempt to keep the crime isolated and under control. Leito (David Bele) and his sister Lola (Dany Verissimo) grew up in one of the worst districts, B13, and have watched the neighborhood grow worse under the control of drug lord Taha (Bibi Naceri) and his band of thugs. Leito enjoys aggravating Taha by destroying his drugs whenever possible and he is determined to bring the mobster down for good. But Taha kidnaps his sister and Leito is betrayed and sent to jail. Six months later, undercover cop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) has to diffuse a neutron bomb Taha has stolen and hidden in the heart of District B13. He needs Leito to be his guide inside the most volatile section of Paris; putting aside their differences, they must attempt to trust each other, save Lola, and diffuse the bomb.
"District B13" definitely has much more to offer than what meets the eye. As the plot develops, each character gets a little piece of the action as the storyline follows (to at least some degree) who they are and makes us care about their existence. The lead cast members are backed with a great supporting cast of thugs, including the blundering K2 (Tony D'Amario). Then when we consider the difficulties of shooting with an extremely inexperienced cast (most notably David Bele and Dany Verissimo), first-time director Pierre Morel does an incredible job of bringing the actors together, helping them bond quickly, and excelling in every respect of filming.
Possibly the best parts of "District B13" are the incredible action sequences. There is not a boring moment during the entire film with a multitude of high-flying, fast-paced action scenes that do so much more then your generic action flick. Each stunt is so intense and they really reach a new level. "District B13" moves us to a spot that Tony Jaa, Jet Lee, and Jackie Chan have done before, but at the same time puts those guys in their place by creating a film that feels more like reality and less like fantasy.
Both Bele and Raffaelli are amazingly fluid athletes. Bele brings his history of stunts to the screen with tremendous ease. The intense, fast action scenes are entirely done by him, with a minimum of wirework...he leaps from rooftops, climbs sheer walls and jumps through tiny door windows. Raffaelli also does an incredible job bringing intensity to "District B13." He continues to impress with his incredible aerial stunts and action-packed fighting scenes. Their every stunt brings something new to the picture, making us crave for more. There isn't better reason to keep on watching...oh, did I mention there's a lot of action?
I can't wait to see what both of these guys do next.
In terms of video quality, Magnolia does not disappoint. "District B13" ranks right up there with the best. It isn't quite as good as "Crank," but it is so close it is hard to tell. The only reason that I can't give this a perfect 5 out of 5 is because of just a few times where there is a little high contrast, and maybe a splash of too much noise once and a while. Other then that, the skin tones are near perfect, the blacks are great, and detail is incredible. I honestly wasn't expecting a lot considering how this almost snuck past us with its release, but was more then pleasantly surprised.
Sound quality is top notch as well. There were so many times during the action scenes that I was just blown away. We are presented with a 5.1 Dolby Digital Ex and DTS HD track that pounds away as each punch is precisely delivered onscreen. Knowing that dialogue was not the film's strong point, the sound editors were on the ball with every stunt, kick, and glass-breaking action scene there is.
My only complaint...and this is small...is that when dubbed, the dialogue does not match up with the lip-syncing at all. I guess this is to be expected considering it is a foreign film, but if you can watch the movie with subtitles you will be perfectly fine.
So I got an email from a reader...and I am sorry to say that I failed to mention that when you do have subtitles on, they are hearing impared. Which means that when there is a gun shot you see "bang." Just a small addition, not too distracting...obviously since I didn't even really catch it.
Making of: Director Pierre Morel, Screenwriter Larbi Naceri, Damein (Cyril Raffaelli), Lola (Dany Verissimo), Leito (David Belle) and K2 (Tony D'Amario). They all put in their two cents about the ghetto in Paris and society today. They chat about how important it is to talk about the ghetto in a film because no one else will.
We are then given 5 parts to the making of "District B13".
The Preparation: Talking about choreography and how they were able to shoot the scene where Leito jumps thorough the small window and the steps they took to shoot it.
The Casino: This one talks about getting stunts right...K2's character, and other casting choices. Really an odd section because very little is about the Casino scene itself.
The Shoot: More stuff on acting, doing stunts and difficulties they had shooting and acting.
Le Parkour: This word actually means...Means of Transportation...Getting to A to B in the simplest and most efficient way possible. This short section is just about this word and how they accomplished getting around.
The Actors: Your standard character build up, how they portrayed their characters on screen and the interactions they had with other actors off-screen.
This is a pretty good special feature...probably the best special feature of the entire disc. Definitely worth a look.
Extended Fight Scene: Casino Combat: This is exactly what it says in the title...Extended Fight Scene. It is mediocre at best.
Outtakes: These are extremely run-of-the-mill, not really that great...another pretty boring special feature.
"District B13" is great...definitely a movie you should go out and pick up now. The acting is good, the action scenes are amazing, the sound is really good, and the picture quality is wonderful. "District B13" does an incredible job of keeping your attention with its state of the art stunts...they shouldn't be possible and are so over the top that you keep telling yourself they aren't real until you watch the special features. I can highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys action movies.