I've got a real soft spot for the Luc Besson action movie sausage factory. They are all generally the same film, narrow variations on formula. As such, I tend to enjoy these variations, and how much I enjoy them depends largely on who's starring.
It's nice then that "District 13: Ultimatum" is a direct sequel to "District 13," because the reason to see this is the chemistry between Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle as a supercop and a street rat, forced once again to team up to save the militarized slum of District 13. The problem is that the film takes soooooo long to put them together again that by the time they do end up fighting side-by-side, the movie's in the home stretch and heading into act three. Still, there are a number of solid and inventive action scenes heading up to that moment, so I'm not saying the film's a wash. I just think any time you have the two of them together, it's gold.
Luc Besson's got sole screenplay credit on this one, and his director is Patrick Alessandrin, who really hasn't done one of these before. He handles the action fairly well, shooting some of it to particularly bone-crunching effect. I can honestly say after this one that I will do whatever it takes to get through the rest of my life without getting kicked by Cyril Raffaelli. It looks like the end of the world, each and every time.
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The script is absolutely ridiculous, but it creates an excuse to bring together a Dirty Dozen of various gang leaders to work together with Leito (Belle) and Tomaso (Raffaelli), and in typical Besson fashion, one of them is a strange Eurohottie named Tao (Elodie Yung) and another is played by the great MC Jean Gab'1 (who was so amazing in "Black" earlier this year). The film is too heavy on exposition and comedy and not heavy enough on crazy gravity-defying bone-crunching ass-kickery, but there's plenty to like. I just think it's not as fresh as the first film, which had a real heavy-duty "Escape From New York" vibe.
One problem is that the world's not terribly well thought out, and as a result, there are no real stakes in whether or not the group of gang leaders manages to accomplish their goal. Then there's a choice made at the end that negates everything, and although I get why they did it, I still don't think it works. I'm also guessing this is one of the cheaper of the Europa action movies, because it feels like they lowballed everything this time out.
I love that Magnolia picked this up as part of their next series of "Six Shooter Films." They have earned the right to be treated with respect based on their track record the first time around. "Let The Right One In" alone makes them look like geniuses. This time out, "Ong Bak 2" and "D13: Ultimatum" represent the most visceral of the films in the series, and I think it's great that Magnolia is dedicated to not only releasing the films, but also releasing them right.
Magnolia will release the film to VOD in January 2010, and theatrical in February.
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