Four years after the acrobatic antics of Parkour, or ‘Free Running’ first hit TV screens, the film industry has finally caught on: this summer’s blockbusters will be awash with wiry French guys leaping over balconies and somersaulting down stairwells. If you’re Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element), France’s answer to Jerry Bruckheimer, you can build an entire film around two blokes with unnerving agility (Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle), and come up with the gloriously ridiculous District 13.
Set in 2010, the sci-fi equivalent of next Tuesday, and with a passing nod to last summer’s Paris riots, the capital’s suburbs have been transformed into a psychedelic version of Pimp My Ride. Sealed inside a giant wall, the lowlife occupants of District 13 are ruled by the drug-addled comedy gangster Taha (Bibi Naceri) and his motley crew of Goldie Lookin’ Chain rejects. When the dimwits mysteriously acquire a massive bomb and trip the 24-hour fuse, elite cop Damien (Rafaelli) teams up with local resident and crime stopper Leïto to save the day.
"A SUPER-SIZED DIET OF INCREDIBLE ACTION"
With a sub A-Team plot and acting that makes the Teletubbies look like a Chekhov play, District 13 survives solely on its super-sized diet of incredible action and pounding beats. Both Raffaelli and Belle (the latter Parkour’s inventor) execute their own stunts, which gives the film a non CG-enhanced realism, stylishly captured by first-time director Pierre Morel. Instantly forgettable, but hugely entertaining for 85 minutes.
In French with English subtitles.