Made at a rumored cost of just over $15 million, and released in the US with the support of an advertising budget that appears to consist of $100 and a ball of string, District B13 is miles from the studio bloat of such tentpole summer movies as Mission: Impossible III and The Da Vinci Code. In place of contrived storylines and massive stars crisscrossing the globe, District B13 offers the awesome, graceful power of parkour alongside a simple story, sneaky wit and 90 minutes of thrilling, absolutely gleeful action. It might just be the best action movie of the summer.
Co-written and produced by Luc Besson and directed by long-time action cinematographer Pierre Morel, the film is set in the Paris of 2010, a city so ravaged by crime and poverty that walls have been erected around the poorest districts to keep the trouble in. As a side effect, of course, most of the help and hope is kept out. Within District B13, there is a single building untouched by the drugs and crime that dominate the rest of the walled city, and that building's unofficial mayor is Leito (David Belle). Though he keeps his building and it's occupants meticulously clean, Leito is in no way above using the same tools and tricks as the criminals he abhors: The building is guarded by heavily-armed thugs and, when we first meet Leito, he's frantically try to destroy the €1 million worth of cocaine that he stole from a K2, a thuggish District B13 gangster. Not surprisingly, K2's boss, Taha, wants payment for the coke, and he wants it now. Despite being captured in his own hideout and turned over to the police by Leito, Taha nevertheless manages to escape, taking Leito's gorgeous, ass-kicking sister (Lola, played by Dany Verissimo) with him.