District 13: Ultimatum - Gravity-defying stunts keep French action sequel in the air

Luc Besson, his directing heyday having just been given the Blu-ray treatment by Optimum, gets to wear his writing and producing hats for District 13: Ultimatum, the sequel to 2005’s frenetic action thriller District 13 (or Banlieue 13 in its original French title).

The first film showcased the awesome kinetic thrills of parkour or free running and the new movie’s trick-free stunts and fights – performed by returning stars David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli - are even more jaw-dropping.

Ultimatum - David Belle in jaw-dropping action

As for what passes for a plot, the year is now 2013 and a clique of corrupt cops and officials are stirring up unrest in the eponymous Banlieue 13, hoping to find an excuse to flatten the gang-ridden area and free it up for some profitable up-market redevelopment. But when a local teen spots the bent flics at work, idealistic ex-con Leïto (Belle) and elite police officer Damien (Raffaelli) join forces once again to expose the conspiracy and save the neighbourhood.

Directed by Patrick Alessandrin (Besson’s assistant director on his debut feature, The Last Battle), District 13 starts off at an incredible lick – Belle’s gravity-defying leaps and bounds are astonishing, and Raffaelli shows off his fighting chops with an impressively choreographed scene in which he fends off a string off assailants while holding a priceless Van Gogh painting in his hands.

Ultimatum - Elodie Yung

But the film loses momentum in the second half, with Besson’s script taking too much time out from the action for pious sermons on multi-cultural harmony when Leïto and Damien seek help from the banlieue’s warring ethnic gangs. The appearance of Elodie Yung, wielding her rope-like pony-tail to lethal effect as the lithe tattooed leader of the Asian gang, peps things up considerably, however, and some well-aimed satirical darts at predatory global corporations and bellicose governments do manage to hit home.

District 13: Ultimatum opens in selected UK cinemas on 2nd October, with its Blu-ray and DVD release following on 26th October.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.