Thursday, February 4, 2010

DISTRICT 13: ULTIMATUM soars, thrills & delights via Luc Besson/Patrick Alessandrin

Why doesn't America have something like the Luc Besson stable of directors, writers and perfor-
mers that France possesses? The closest we come -- under-appreciated and under-seen as it is -- would be the Neveldine-Taylor duo (the Crank films and the more recent Gamer). What the Besson group (some of whom are shown below) offers are action movies that really move, loaded with intelligence (and only a modicum of bloodshed) and executed with genuine skill in terms of concept, direction, peformance, screenplay, stunts and all the rest.

For a fine example of the Besson touch, look no farther than the movie opening tomorrow -- DISTRICT 13: ULTIMATUM -- a kind of sequel to the popular District 13 from 2004, in which we met Captain Damien Tomasso of the French police and his soon-to-be pal, the street punk Leïto. Though these two would seem to be on opposite sides of the law, their commitment to truth, justice and the Français way soon makes them fast friends. D-13 Ultimatum quite literally begins with the ending of the original film, and before we can say sleazy, manipulative, lying, murdering right-wing bastards,  the powers-that-be are once again trying to rid France of its notorious B (for Banlieue) 13, where the French have-nots of all races and persuasions gather.

The sequel, directed by Patrick Alessandrin, pretty much does the same thing as its predecessor: It offers some phenomenally clever and entertaining action sequences spliced into a good-enough story about bad guys in the police and the government and their nefarious plot against the now famous "District."  The first of these sequences (there are maybe half a dozen within the 90-minute movie)  involves a Chinese night club (above) with a very unusual bar girl and offers non-stop action and fun with little blood and guts.  Instead the viewer is treated to a display of expert martial arts and parkour combined with wit and film savvy.

My adult daughter accompanied me to the screening and assured me afterward that the martial arts on display were about as good as the movies have given us, combining various types into one stunning demonstration.  She also had high praise for the actions skills of the two leads: Cyril Raffaelli (below foreground, bald -- who plays policeman Tomasso) and David Belle (below center, tatooed -- who essays Leïto). Along for the wild ride can be seen two staples of French film: Philippe Torreton (César-winner and Comédie-Française star, who plays the decent but be-deviled French President, and Daniel Duval as the chief sleaze. Both are fine, with Torreton providing the kind of nuance that films of this genre rarely receive.

Once again, in addition to the great fun the film gives, what distin-
guishes this D-13 movie is the understanding Besson (he wrote the screenplay and produced) brings of the politics, sociology and econ-
omics of France (and by extension the west) -- not just its obvious divisions (and how the right wing manipulates these against each other) but what it might take to bring them together. If there's nothing quite as tasty here as the original's great line comparing liberty, equality and fraternity with gas, water and electricity, the script is still packed with smart dialog and fast, funny quips.

The finale, by the way -- which in any American version would have explosions and probably carnage aplenty -- is here handled by mere sound effects, muted and at a distance.  We know what is about to happen, but only a movie-maker who understand the uses of subtlety and who trusts his audience as he does himself would take this kind of chance. Does it pay off? You'll find out.

District-13: Ultimatum, from the Magnet Releasing arm of Magnolia Pictures , opens Friday, February 5, across the country in nine cities, including New York's Village East Cinemas.  In the month to come, it will open on screens in nine more.  Click here for playdates, cities and theaters.

4 comments:

Laura said...

Nice job. The only thing I would have added was how often I found myself laughing out loud. You did state it was witty but I really laughed! The film was smart, sexy, very funny, had the social commentary AND incredible fight scenes. Really, as far as I'm concerned, you just can't get better than that.
Thanks for taking me with you.
Laura Simms

James van Maanen, said...

Why, thank you, daughter dear. I will have to take you with me more often!

WEB SHERIFF said...

WEB SHERIFF
Who You Gonna Call
Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
Fax 44-(0)208 323 8080
websheriff@websheriff.com
www.websheriff.com

Hi James,

On behalf of Magnolia Pictures and the movie’s producers, many thanks for plugging "District 13: Ultimatum" ... .. thanks also, on behalf of the distributors and producers, for not posting any pirate copies or non-trailer clips of “District 13: Ultimatum” and if you / your readers want good quality, non-pirated, previews, then the official trailer for “District 13: Ultimatum” is available for fans and bloggers to post / host / share etc at www.apple.com/trailers/magnolia/districtb13/ ... for further details of on-line promotions for this movie and Magnolia releases generally, check-out www.magpictures.com and their official YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/MagnoliaPictures .

Thanks again for your plug.

Regards,

WEB SHERIFF

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Web Sheriff, but I NEVER post trailers for this film or any other. Trailers these days are usually so bad -- overlong and they give away far too much -- that I don't want to get near them. And I'll also never intentionally post something that is "pirated."

I doubt my readers are the sort who would want to go to web sites and check out promotions or trailers, in any case. They might want to see the actual movie, however -- which is the point of my blog: Go see the thing itself but ignore the rest of the blather.

I did link to Magnolia' web site at the end of my post, which I always try to do for whichever company is releasing the movie in question.

D13: U is so much fun and so well done that I hope it corals a sizable audience.