From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

District 13: Ultimatum - B

Rated R for some violence, language and drug material, 101 minutes
In French with English subtitles

Stylish, bloody "Ultimatum" a French "Lethal Weapon"

District 13: Ultimatum” is an energetic, high-flying and often fun French action thriller. In French with English subtitles, it’s a sequel to the 2004 Luc Besson-produced hit “District 13.” The new film has a bigger budget, a bigger cast and bigger fights and explosions than the original and it will certainly please fans of the first film, even if the well-worn and predictable story is otherwise forgettable.

The sequel begins three years after the events of the original film, and authorities are attempting to restore law and order to the ravaged section known as District 13. The death of gang overlord Taha Bemamud has left a considerable power struggle and total control of the area is now being fought over by five rival territorial gang lords who want to step into Taha's position. Undercover cop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) and former gang member Leito (David Belle) return to District 13 to bring peace before the President (Philippe Torreton) and some corrupt cops take drastic measures to solve the problem.

“District 13: Ultimatum” is modestly enjoyable, low-grade entertainment, filled with energetic, fast-paced stunts and martial arts that’s the clear highlight of the film, making it seem like France’s version of the “Lethal Weapon” films. Acclaimed filmmaker Besson, with director Patrick Alessandrin, make it enjoyable, though the story is too calculated and implausible to occur in real life. As well, some plot details are a little fuzzy: there are too many characters to keep track of, not to mention it’s often difficult to distinguish the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

One thing is for sure, though: handsome athletic French actors Belle and Raffaelli (who seems to be France’s version of Jason Statham) are clearly the good guys and are up to much of their antics from the first film. They’re not required so much to act as to nimbly run, jump and kick, and they’re at their best when paired together, particularly in one action set piece that has them surrounded by bad guys, thrown out of a building onto a car, they get the car and literally drive it in and out of the same building. The opening sequence, with Raffaelli taking down some bad guys in drag and fighting with a Van Gogh in one hand, is one of the film’s more humorous moments (and you won’t easily forget the backside – or lack thereof – of his outfit) and reminds of something Mel Gibson might’ve done in the “Lethal Weapon” films years ago.

If you enjoyed the first “District 13” you’ll enjoy “Ultimatum” too, and it doesn’t disappoint with some colorful visuals and stunts to keep you engaged until the efficient, predictable ending that leaves it open for another installment. For essentially a reworked, American version of “District 13,” check out the recent Travolta flick “From Paris With Love,” which was produced by Besson and directed by Pierre Morel, who directed the first “District 13.”

"District 13: Ultimatum" opens in Dallas in March.