You've got to hand it to Luc Besson: The guy knows how the system works. After creating one of the best crime films of the '90s (1994's The Professional), Besson started working on scripts and producing, while also directing the exhaustingly stylistic The Fifth Element. Besson makes most of his money these days by writing and producing action flicks that often specialize in stunts and kung fu. At last we left him, he was pairing an aerobatic Jet Li with a piano-playing Morgan Freeman in Unleashed. Now, he goes back to his native France for the futuristic action flick District B13.
Leito (David Belle) has just stolen a mighty big amount of coke from Taha (Bibi Naceri) and is in the middle of disposing of it when he hears gunshots. It's Taha's trusty henchman, K2 (Tony D'Amario), dismissing Leito's bodyguards. Leito escapes his certain fate in the first of many acts of gymnastic fighting and running. In retaliation, Taha kidnaps Lola, Leito's little sister, and gets the cops to take in Leito. Six months later, Leito is released by undercover cop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) to save District B13 when Taha stumbles on a test bomb that could wipe out everything in an 8km radius of where it lands. Together, they strike out to get the bomb and save Lola with their necks intact. Article continues below
Let's not kid ourselves here. This film is about the action and, for the most part, it delivers. Both Belle and Raffaelli are stuntmen who are specialists in the French acrobatic fighting style known as Parkour. The fights are extremely exciting and well choreographed (by Raffaelli). In fact, much like Poseidon, District B13 might be the only other summer film that doesn't attempt to be more than it is. Every piece of dialogue is so trite and embarrassing that it becomes clear that all we are supposed to care about is the fighting and the narrow escapes.
Too bad there aren't really enough fights to keep you completely enthralled. The battle with the big baddy, cutely nicknamed Yeti, goes very quickly and is boring once you realize how Leito is disposing of him. Also, the ending pushes the "we are all equal" card a little too much, spoiling all the good-hearted fun that has been going on so far. There are moments that make up for it, but they aren't plentiful enough to save the film from its spectacle genre.
Where Mission: Impossible 3 and the unforgivable X-Men: The Last Stand tried to boost runtime by stuffing cheap sentiment into the gaps between action, District B13 proudly states its vanity and hollow entertainment value. In what is quickly turning out to be one of the worst summer movie seasons in years, you've got to respect it. Either way, Besson is still on his way to the bank.