Short version: District 13: Ultimatum may not be as good as the first one, but it’s still a somewhat fun film that will appeal most to action junkies.
Screen Rant’s Ross Miller reviews District 13: Ultimatum
I thought the first District 13 movie was a breath of fresh air in the modern day world of action movies. The French language film directed by Pierre Morel (Taken) and co-written by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) featured what is known as “free- running,” or to use its proper name: “Parkour.” That basically consists of someone running up walls and jumping between buildings to get somewhere as quickly as possible. It is described officially as, “the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment.”
Sounds like a great basis for an action movie, right? Right. In fact, I would go as far to say the first District 13 is one of my favorite action movies of the past 10 years, as thin as it is on story and character development (is that really what we look for in that type of movie?).
It was a movie prime for a sequel in my opinion – and as if by magic they went ahead and made just that. This time it’s called District 13 – Ultimatum (they REALLY should have used a different name after the Bourne franchised used it), and the “plot” is basically rehashed from the first movie:
(Warning: SPOILERS are ahead related to the first movie, as well as some mild spoilers for this sequel)
The movie opens with the scene we were left in at the end of the previous film: Our two free-running heroes having saved the day and the crime and violence-ridden slum known as the District set to be cleaned up, starting with the government taking down the wall that encloses it. However, cut straight to three years later and all hasn’t gone to plan (read: the government is wavering on its promises) and once again the District is filled with crime and toughest of tough guys running the show.
We check back in on Leito (played by the inventor/founder of Parkour, David Belle) and Damien who worked together the first time around to save the District from destruction by a nuke sent by the government (a deal done under the table, of course 😛 ). As I said, the plot is kind of a rehash of the first one, this time the government is planning on destroying the District (now run by five territorial gangs) because it’s easier to do so than spend the time, money and effort to try and clean it up. Needless to say Leito and Damien team up once more to kick some serious ass… of anyone who gets in their way.
As mentioned above, in a film like this the story isn’t what is of interest to those who’ve took the time out to watch it, it’s the scenes of running, jumping, kicking, punching, shooting and everything else associated with an action movie of this kind. Once again the stunts and martial arts work are utterly astounding, from the chase sequences that involve jumping from one building to another, to the hand-to-hand combat that have you cringing and cheering (both at the hurt caused) in equal measure throughout.
I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end on a front-flip kick from either of the two leads…
One notable example of a fight sequence is one of the film’s highlight scenes which is set in a gang’s nightclub, where Damien (an undercover police captain) pretends to be a half-naked woman in order to lure each of the mob bosses in the club to a “simple” arrest. The scene is very reminiscent of the casino scene in the first one, but this time the fighting is taken almost to a whole other level (I know that may be a hard thing to believe if you’ve seen the first). As ridiculous and over-the-top as it is, you still kind of go along with it because it’s part of the fun of the whole thing.
So if the action is so awesome then what’s the problem? Well, there isn’t enough of it. The first film had plenty of action and had little story, but the sequel flips things around. Now that would be fine if the story was well thought out or brought something new and interesting to the table. But it’s not, as I said it’s just TOO similar to the plot of the first, and it just wallows in that for a lot longer than is welcome. That’s not to say there isn’t action, because there’s still a lot for junkies of the genre to get their fix, but surprisingly the (“blah”) story outweighs everything else.
Much like the first film, this is definitely one that only fans of action movies will get any sort of kick out of (see what I did there?). This is particularly true when it comes to the ridiculousness of some of the action, especially the stuff involving the free-running (i.e. not the fight sequences). For example, when Leito jumps from one apartment building to the next over a gap of what appears to be dozens of feet, that may not be something a non-action fan can swallow without seriously questioning what’s going on. So if you’re looking for the realistic action of Bourne or the revitalized Bond movies then you’re out of luck.
Overall District 13 – Ultimatum is a step down from the first one, increasing the amount of time spent on the mediocre storyline and decreasing the time spent on the action. Since the latter is turned up to 11 at certain points, it might be just a tad too over-the-top for some people. But if you’re looking for a throwaway 90 minutes of entertainment it’s a very serviceable flick that might not have much staying power but one which is a lot of fun while it lasts.
District 13 -Ultimatum is already out on DVD in most market except for the big one, the U.S. (I have no idea why they’re not pushing it more in that prime market). If you’re in the U.S. and like the sound of the film but just need that little something to push you over to the edge into seeing it when it eventually hits theaters, we have just the ticket for you in the form of the new official trailer: