If It Ain’t Broke, Cyril Raffaelli Probably Didn’t Kick It Hard Enough
Usually, when they follow-up a surprise hit action movie, for some reason the makers feel compelled to change the formula, up the ante, add more explosions, add some sort of crazy subplot. They never think to just make the same basic movie with a few changes. Well, leave it to Luc Besson to change the formula by keeping it exactly the same. District B13: Ultimatum takes place three years after the last movie, and nothing has changed. The government has still walled in the criminals, Tomaso is still trying to fight crime, and Leito is still trying to tear down the walls. The basic premise of the movie is still to showcase Cyril Raffaelli's martial artistry and David Belle's parkour. And by God, do they. Did you like the first movie? Then you'll love the shit out of the second, as it's got the same humor, the same objectification of women, the same high-octane stunts and action. It's the same fucking movie. But hell, that's what we liked, so why change it? I think it's kind of refreshing to be formulaic sometimes.
There are a few changes. District B13 is now run by five separate gangs -- easily stereotyped for our convenience: African, skinhead, Arab, Asian, and Russian. Each controls their own tower and small commune in the District, which they defend mostly against the police. I worried at first that Besson was prepping us for some sort of videogame-like battle to take over each gang one at a time. But that would be different from the first flick. Instead, an evil government official -- head of the DISS -- plots to destroy the District B13 to get a cut from an evil construction company called Harriburton (I shit you not -- I almost did a fucking Mr. Pibb spit take when I read that on the subtitles) so they can rebuild and restructure everything. So the DISS kills a cop and frames the gangs, and thus convinces the President (or Prime Minister or Queen or whatever the fuck France has) to blow up the projects with missles.
To prevent any sort of interference, the DISS frames supercop Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli) by planting drugs in his apartment and getting him arrested. Tomaso calls Leito (David Belle), who's been spending all his time setting mines on the wall around District 13 to bring it down. Leito came in to convenient possession of a video of the DISS killing the cops. So Leito breaks into the police station to rescue Tomaso. They escape, join up with the gangs, and save the day.
However, Besson's smart enough to just loosely cobble the plot together so we can watch Belle and Raffaeli do their magic. What always blew my mind with parkour -- of which I'm kind of a ridiculous superfan -- is that it's action based entirely on running away. Belle doesn't fight bad people, he flees, leaping over balconies and climbing walls like a hyperactive spider monkey. And it's incredibly badass to watch. I don't know exactly what martial art Raffaeli does, but it reminds me both of back when Steven Seagal was breaking ribs and not all-you-can-eating them and Jackie Chan before they took his Drunken. He's like a firework in your adrenal glands and like watching a dude who once fronted a late '90s pop band just fucking guys up with ladders, umbrellas, and in one Bourne -again moment, a motherfucking Van Gogh. One second. I actually had to take a me moment to rub one out just remembering how fucking great that sequence was.
Besson's only slip was trying to quickly bumpersticker a little message moment at the end of the film, but really, after watching the two men kick ass so hard, fuck it, he can have it. Otherwise, District B13: Ultimatum is pretty much once more with feeting. I'm the first person to criticize a movie for style over substance -- cough, cough, ABBADAH -- but with something like these movies, you almost hope the story is disposable. Especially with someone like Besson who's prone to getting his head up his own ass with his storylines. So if you liked the first one, and why the fuck wouldn't you, just sign on and get ready to watch more badass auditions for what you'll be seeing this year in all the action flicks coming out.