Wednesday, January 25, 2012

District B13

  District B-13 almost embodies everything thats wrong with modern action movies. However it gleefully skips over the biggest pitfalls of all, which not only saves it from being a gimmicky mess, but makes it a wholly entertaining ride that I can reccomend on a clear conscience.  From the Transporter movies, to The Fast and The Furious movies, and beyond, modern action movies feel too poorly thought out. I can't tell if they haven't an intelligent thought behind them, or if they have just too many to make anything worthwhile and cohesive.
And lot of the time they're chock full of unwanted and unnecessary CGI which lends a glossy feel to the movie, and disconnects us from the action.  However, every once in a while, you find one of those movies that should have no right to be as awesome as it is. It uses every tired gimmick possible, but does a good job of embracing such stuff instead of pretending like its more important than it is.

  If any of that seemed at all a little confusing, I don't blame you. The state of modern action movies, is confusing. And its hard to find the right labels to slap on there. For now I'm gonna go with "sloppy" and "careless".  Of course there are always exceptions to the rule. For instance, The Bourne Identity, and Taken to name a couple. Both movies operate like a well oiled machine. Whereas the typical musclebound schlock tends to stumble from one mind-numbingly implausible situation into the next with no regard for continuity (or the laws of physics for that matter).  While I can't say D-B13 is anywhere near the calibur of Bourne or Taken, it feels fully thought out. Like they had one solid idea, fleshed it out, stuck with it, and made a flashy, over the top, action movie that feels right at home within this idea.

  The movie's gimmick is parkour.  The characters, especially the two leads, are damn good at parkour. And the insane stunts they do look really really cool.  Its not CGI folks. As far as I can tell, this stuff looks 100% real. Which only makes it cooler, because people doing dangerous stuff for real obviously has a quality differential between wire frame animations cranked out by a computer. Real stuff has gravitas and impact.  CGI, when used right, can augment a situation or scene in a movie. But I do firmly believe that it has almost no place in a standard action flick. Unless we're talking... Wanted, or Ninja Assassin.  But those are a whole 'nother matter entirely.

  Another thing D-B13 has in spades is personality and charisma. The lead characters are simply fun to watch. They're never given much time outside of action scenes to expand their characters beyond plot devices and such, but the actors clearly do bring their a-game to the roles and they do it with gusto.  Its just fun to watch these guys trade off one-liners with a dead serious face and then flow right into kicking ass.
In any other movie this would've been so hokey. But these guys really sell it. It works surprisingly well.
  The movie is set in a 'future' where the ghettos in france have become so bad that they've built massive police patroled walls around them. Keeping in the 'riff raff'.  And also, keeping in about a million innocent people who just want to live their lives. But now they're boxed in with the worst of the worst, with no way out... and no law.  Thats just the setup folks. Now, the government lost a new experimental bomb they were transporting through district B-13 when the transport van was hijacked. So they assign their token super cop to go in and disarm it before all of 2 million people in this mega-ghetto are eviscerated when the bomb goes off. But the cop needs a guide to navigate the concrete jungle of district B-13, enter his partner to be, the vigilante: Leito.  Born and raised in the district, Leito fights off the drug dealers and gangsters to keep his own building to himself, his crew, and his family.  They find out that the same drug lord, Taha, who has the stolen super bomb (which had been accidently primed and is on a 24 countdown to 'boom') is the same drug lord who had kidnapped Leito's sister, Lola, 6 months earlier in a face off that landed Leito in prison instead of Taha.  "Lola and the bomb. Two reasons to stick together." the cop says to Leito after he breaks him out of prison. Its clearly a plot device to keep these guys together. But its one that works regardless of how obvious it is.

  The movie has style, flair, and decent camerawork showcasing all the action scenes, and they're all really intense and cool to watch. Theres not much more I could ask from a movie like this. Its just total shameless fun. Totally recommended.

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