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European-American Topics - Cinema - Russian Dolls

Better, faster, crazier!
By Jérôme Patoux
posted July 10, 2006

District B13 is an unsophisticated movie all right. No script (nothing that you could not write yourself anyway), no real acting - well, in fact, no real actor: only crazy martial artists, incredible athletes, and awe-inspiring stuntmen. Why would you pay to see yet another action-packed stunt movie? Because the jumping, falling, running and fighting is like nothing you have ever seen… and without a single special effect!! Can you jump from 5 feet high without hurting yourself? Don’t worry… Keanu Reeves cannot either, nor Tom Cruise for that matter. But David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli can do without any state-of-the-art CGI. Not only can they jump from a rooftop down 20 feet to another rooftop (and keep running!), but they also climb, slide, roll, jump through tiny windows and evade knives and bullets. Their lines are sometimes funny (self-derision is often appropriate) but mostly empty (remember? no script, no acting), but hey, in many ways their physical delivery is much more exciting than any computer-generated fight scene. The audience certainly thought so at last year’s Seattle International Film Festival, where the movie was an unexpected hit. 

B13 follows a recent trend in French cinema, in which homemade stunts and fights are expected to make up for the lack (or weakness) of storyline and character development, such as in Brotherhood of the wolves, where martial arts and staff fighting were awkwardly introduced in a historical piece about the beast of Givaudan (with a mixed result, arguably). All these movies also bear the stamp of acclaimed director Luc Besson, either screenwriter, producer or executive producer on such recent movies as Taxi, Yamakasi, or The Transporter. B13 is no exception, and one suspects that a new generation of young French directors are trying to reinvent the Hollywood action genre with a French touch.

Not convinced yet? Give it a try. Most movies pack their first 20 minutes with their best action, and leave you hungry for the last hour. The first 20 minutes of District B13 will get you on the edge of your seat. Then… buckle your seatbelt. It gets better, faster, crazier!!!

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