District 13: Ultimatum
Time Out New York Project: Issue #749, February 4–February 10, 2010
Dir. Patrick Alessandrin. 2009. R. 101mins. In French, with subtitles. Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Daniel Duval.
The second of this week’s offerings from French megaproducer Luc Besson (after From Paris with Love) is the somewhat underwhelming sequel to 2004’s parkour-popularizing District 13. Limber police captain Damien Tomaso (Raffaelli) and antelope-like renegade Leïto (Belle) team up to take down the devilish head (Duval) of a Halliburton-esque conglomerate named, uh, Harriburton. But this mock-timely story — which culminates in a stale tokin’-with-the-President scene more suited to the Harold & Kumar series — is a bit of an albatross, diminishing the elegance and elation of the action.
It’s fortunate, then, that Besson, the sole credited writer, and director Patrick Alessandrin take their sweet time getting to the plot. The first half hour, with Damien and Leïto on separate turfs, is entirely dedicated to proving the actors’ athletic prowess: During an undercover operation at a mob-run casino, Damien fights off droves of antagonists while holding a priceless Van Gogh painting. That’s the kind of gag as suited to silent comedy as to martial artistry, and Raffaelli indeed moves with the expressive agility often associated with Buster Keaton or Jackie Chan in their primes. Nothing tops this extended set piece, though one ovationworthy groin-kick and a gal with a razor-blade-adorned ponytail come close.—Keith Uhlich