District 13: Ultimatum
Directed by Patrick Alessandrin
D13:U opens three years after its ultimatum-less predecessor left off. “The government has changed,” a title card imparts. “But nothing else.” Right: Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) and Leito (David Belle) again must unite to defeat a nefarious government plot to bomb the titular ghetto. But much else, in fact, is different: the impoverished denizens of the walled-in slum, now self-segregated by ethnicity, have more face tattoos; there’s more slo-mo, more awesomeness-reinforcing replays of the ante-upped action, more unwinding with sexy hos. In short, another man is sitting in the director’s chair.
Pierre Morel helmed the rip-roaring first-entry in this Franco franchise-to-be, but has since gone on to collect paychecks in American dollars; screenwriter-producer Luc Besson, the Apatow of Gallic action, appointed Patrick Alessandrin to take over, and the new director, usually successfully, mostly mimics Morel—except the action editing isn’t as precise, the storytelling not as taut. (He has a distasteful penchant for digressive sequences that revel in sick fistfights rather than push the plot forward.)
But the widest divergence between the two is their politics. D13:U sold an American ideology: in its war between government and civilians, the heroes were the exceptional individuals; here, however, Besson puts his faith in the group, essentially setting our Gulf War: Part Deux in a near-future France: resistance fighters of disparate sects (here, race) must cooperate to defeat an occupying force bent on razing their homes for the profit of an evil contractor (called, seriously, “Harriburton”). Only in a member-nation of the Coalition of the Un-willing could The Terrorists be reconfigured as the heroes. Or, you know, on Pandora.
Opens February 5