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Banlieue 13

Entry updated 7 February 2019. Tagged: Film.

Film (2004; vt District 13, 2006). EuropaCorp presents a co-production in association with TF1 Films Production with the participation of Canal+. Directed by Pierre Morel. Written by Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri. Cast includes David Belle, François Chattot, Tony D'Amario, Samir Guesmi, Bibi Naceri, Patrick Olivier, Cyril Raffaelli, Dany Verissimo and Nicolas Woirion. Colour. 84 minutes.

A free-runner and an undercover policeman foil a government plot to set off a neutron Weapon in a suburb of Near Future Paris overrun by crime (see Crime and Punishment).

This Pulp-inflected offering from writer and producer Luc Besson combines quickfire martial arts and the urban sport of parkour (see Games and Sports) to fairly entertaining effect, but the impact of witty one-liners about the Politics of class-consciousness and the Sociology of inner Cities is somewhat diminished by the presence of ludicrous plot-holes, ethnic stereotypes (see Race in SF) and a deep vein of misogyny (see Women in SF). "Why kill two million people over a few problems?" asks Captain Damien Tomaso (Raffaelli) of local ally-of-convenience Leïto (Belle) as it begins to become clear that the pair has been set-up to detonate (rather than deactivate) a bomb containing "clean" Nuclear Energy in the walled-off district of Paris known as "B13". "We killed six million for not being blond and blue-eyed," answers Leïto, in the manner of someone who knows that Enlightenment values are very often a matter of what the powerful choose to illuminate.

"I learned something at school: liberty, equality, fraternity," Tomaso tells Leïto as the pair continues to debate democracy, reductionism and the rule of law. "Water, gas, electricity?" comes the reply from Leïto, whose efforts to rescue sister Lola (Verissimo) from a leather leash attached to Drugs kingpin Taha (Naceri) leave her with very little to say. "They don't give a fuck about this place," Leïto tells Tomaso of the administration that has sponsored them. "They couldn't fix it so now they're cleaning it up. There's not one government office left, not one school or police station." The Satire of contemporary Economics is delivered with some aplomb but the mise en scène of Banlieue 13 eschews the Cyberpunk aesthetic of Escape from New York (1981) – from which much of Banlieue 13's plotline is lifted – in favour of that of Thai martial-arts action thriller Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003), for which film Luc Besson's company EuropaCorp had purchased international distribution rights following its commercial success in Asia. Banlieue 13 was less successful but nonetheless spawned both a sequel, District 13: Ultimatum (2009), and an English-language remake set in Detroit, Brick Mansions (2014). [MD]


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