When it reached American audiences two years after it opened in France, 2006's District 13 (or B13 here) served as a breezy introduction to the art of parkour, not to mention director Pierre Morel's knack for shooting action sequences both energetically and visibly (an underrated quality, that last one). Morel moved on to Taken, though, while parkour began to infiltrate more high-profile Hollywood fare, like Casino Royale and Live Free or Die Hard.

However, writer/producer/all-around action maven Luc Besson stuck around to cash in on the promise of a follow-up, and now we're greeted with District 13: Ultimatum, a competent if flabby rehash of the first film's race-against-time plot and dystopian setting.
A few years after the events of D13, the wall still stands around the Parisian ghetto, with five different gangs now ruling it. However, one secretive division of the government is looking to eliminate them all, out of hopes of developing the area and displacing the scum, and so the residents of D13 are framed with shooting up a police cruiser and the officers inside. Supercop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) is similarly locked up under false pretenses, so it's up to Leito (David Belle) to break him out and unite the gangs against the government before the situation boils over.

The original D13 opened with what almost seemed to be the third act of an unwritten film before that. By the twenty minute mark, our hero has saved the girl and handed the bad guy over to authorities -- then it becomes apparent that the authorities don't really hold any authority within the wall, and the real ticking-clock/reluctant-buddy plot of the movie began. As with the central facet of parkour, speed was a virtue, and the film as a whole breezed by at 84 minutes in length.

Ultimatum, in comparison, runs 101 minutes, and when the start of the chase isn't stalled by plodding plotting (the death of the cops is caught on camera, and that footage becomes a monotonous McGuffin), it's interrupted later on by repetitive speechifying from the various gang lords and our two heroes about how everyone must set aside the differences if they hope to stop the nefarious deeds of the film's Halliburton clone (quite literally named Harriburton, or something just as obvious).

But when things aren't preachy, once butts are being kicked, director Patrick Alessandrin lets Raffaelli and Belle do that voodoo that they do so well, as they scamper across rooftops with tremendous agility, pummel henchman after henchman with remarkable force, and drive through buildings with risible convenience (it takes one especially silly contrivance for that last one to happen, trust me).

If only in its action scenes, D13:U is more of the same in all the right ways; the preachy bits and silly humor, though, belong on the floor beside the bad guys.
categories Reviews, Cinematical