Review: District B13
Action is a universal language. Kicking a guy in the face is the same in English, German and Klingon. District B13 had plenty of face-kicking, which is why I think it might pass the yo-dude test. To refresh your memory, in our preview of District B13 we mentioned the possibility of this film becoming the yo-dude's Amelie. To do that, I think it will need to fulfill a few requirements. Let's go over them and see how District B13 stacks up.
Kick-ass Action Sequences
If you want meatheads to remember your movie, there has to be at least one sequence that blows them away. For me, that was our introduction to Damien (Cyril Raffaelli), the cop assigned to save District B13. See, the film is set in the not-so-distant future and B13 is an area in Paris that is cordoned off and is run by a massive gang led by Taha (Bibi Naceri). Damien and Leito (David Belle) must save the district from a stolen nuclear warhead and find Leito's sister as well.
When we meet Damien he is working undercover, trying to take down the owner of an illegal casino. This being an action movie, he must work alone. I won't detail each and every move, but I will tell you the scene ended with Damien bodyslamming the last baddie from two stories up onto a poker table.
Yo-Dude Requirement #1: Passed
Pretty Things to Look At
When I say pretty, I don't mean lusciously shot scenes; I mean hot bodies and dark, exotic locations. B13 has both of those. Damien's sister, Lola (Dany Verissimo), is a treat to look at and is portrayed as a girl who likes to get down (in a cool, non-slutty way). As a bonus, she's also available, which is a rarity for action films since the lead usually snatches up the girl by the end. The landscape of B13 isn't especially futuristic, but there are plenty of secret passageways and dark corners people jump out of. If all that's not enough, there are some crazy street-style rally cars.
Yo-Dude Requirement #2: Passed
Much of Jackie Chan's popularity is based on his insistance on doing all of his own stunts. The two male leads in B13 should get the same kudos as they are true traceurs, or masters of Parkour. In the very first scene, Taha is trying to capture Damien while he's at home destroying a million euros worth of Taha's coccaine, but he manages to escape by bouncing off every single wall (interior and exterior) in the building. Even if the blockheads in question couldn't pronounce traceur, they will certainly appreciate these stunts.
Yo-Dude Requirement #3: Passed
Guy Ritchie has set the standard for memorable characters in yo-dude films. Everyone remembers Brad Pitt's ridiculous character in Snatch. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the actors in B13. While the story was strong and easy to follow, I never really felt a strong attachment to any of the characters (except maybe Lola, but for reasons that have nothing to do with her acting).
Yo-Dude Requirement #4: Failed
From this simple test, it looks like District B13 did pretty well, but I don't think it's going to be a smash hit here in the States. Aside from plenty of people refusing to see a foreign, subtitled film, there is something missing from the characters (which may have been lost in translation). Of course, just because the public at large isn't going to fall for this movie doesn't mean you shouldn't. I really enjoyed it and was transfixed with the actors' ability to bounce off anything and land on their feet. I give it two six-packs up.