Reviews Too Late: Banlieue 13

by wjw on August 3, 2009

“Banlieue” literally translates as “suburb,” but colloquially means “the hood”— the French have saved their inner cities, but at the cost of moving the Projects out into the country. In this French film produced by Luc Besson, Banlieu 13 has been walled off from the rest of France, and given over to the gangs.

Well, it’s no sillier an idea than Escape from New York.

And, like Escape from New York, the scientifictional premise is little more than an excuse for a whole lot of action scenes. Except that the action scenes in this one are really, really nifty.

The film stars David Belle, considered the inventor of le parkour, and martial artist/action choreographer Cyril Raffaelli. Neither are actors exactly, but they turned out to be much better than I would have expected, and more credible than most American action stars, if only because they do their own stunts. (And most excellent stunts they are.)

I won’t bother to explain the plot, because the plot really doesn’t matter. But the model who plays David Belle’s sister is fun, if underutilized, and the various gangsters are amusing. (All the minor characters, in fact, are exceptionally well drawn, possibly because Besson’s co-writer is character actor Bibi Nessari, who also plays one of the minor characters.)
But the real star of the film are the stunts. Raffaelli worked on the action choreography for three months prior to commencing principal photography, and it shows.
If you’re tired of waiting for the next Tony Jaa film, or are deeply nostalgic for the sorts of movies Jackie Chan was making in the 80’s, then this is a perfectly acceptable substitute.

Ian McDowell August 4, 2009 at 3:37 am

The director mars a few of money of the more impressive shots with Too Much Editing, but not nearlyas much as most American directors do.

Raffaeli was the shorter of the two blonde twins Jet Li fought in KISS OF THE DRAGON, and he had a minor role in the original TRANSPORTER. On the commentary track to that film, Jason Statham sings his praises at great length.

The sequel looks pretty good, too, although the guy jumping through the hatchway and slamming it shut so his pursuers crash into it SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN A SINGLE SHOT, dammit, and there's no point in ending the trailer with an explosion, since LOTS of action movies have explosions.

Chris Mays August 7, 2009 at 5:40 pm

I was watching TV in France last week, and there's a sequel about to pounce: B13 Ultimatum

trailers are out there.

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