District 13: Ultimatum (2009)
By: Devon B. on May 17, 2013 | Comments
Icon | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | French DD 2.0 | 100 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Patrick Alessandrin
Starring: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Philippe Torreton, Daniel Duval, Elodie Yung
Screenplay: Luc Besson
Country: France
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District 13: Ultimatum, or D13: U, is a sequel to District 13 or District B13, as it was called by English language distributors. That last name is a bit of a boo boo because the "B" stands for Banlieue, which is French for "district," so the movie's name is District District 13. While that title might please fans of Duran Duran for its repetitive nature, I think it's confusing. Another thing that was confusing for me was District 13: Ultimatum builds on the story from the previous film, which I've not seen. The first film is meant to be fairly light on for plot, and I could mostly work out what was going on in the sequel…except I'm not really clear on what the whole district thing is about. So if I've misunderstood something, I'm going to blame that on my irresponsibility of not watching District District 13 first.

In District 13: Ultimatum, the year is 2016, and Paris has put up walls that divide the city into districts. One guy wants to blow holes in the walls and end the city's district disruption. Then there's a special forces officer who like to dress in drag, which is probably why he fights so good because people always start shit with him for wearing women's clothes. The cop gets targeted in a conspiracy that gets him imprisoned, and calls on his friend, that wall-blowing-up rebel guy, to come help. Together they try to get things sorted in district 13, which is the worst district, I guess, and work out what's going on with the whole wrongful arrest thing.

Maybe it's something I've misunderstood, but it seemed that the districts in the city segregated people based on ethnicity. That gave the movie a bit of a political edge, which made it seem a little deeper than it probably is. I guess this movie has a lot more plot than the first one, which I find hard to believe because there really isn't a lot of plot on hand, but it's true the film takes a while (re)introducing its characters and getting things set up. Luc Besson has returned as scriptwriter so there are some plot points, particularly at the end, that didn't make much sense, but as is often the case with Besson's better films, these things can be glossed over.

Besson has revisited the whiz-bang feel of The Transporter, and District 13: Ultimatum has some spectacular, gravity defying, stunts. And when people leaping great distances gets old, Besson has a car go aerial in an amazing fashion. The parkour style lends itself perfectly to the thrilling roof top flights where gravity is paid no mind, and the two leads make a good action team, one the high flier parkour dude, and the other just kicks the crap outta people. It takes about 20 minutes until the first fight, but it's a good once and it references Jackie Chan's "must protect object X while fighting" gag that has appeared in a few of Chan's movies. The stunts are good and the movie has a kinetic vibe that makes it seem exciting even when not much is happening.

One of the better Besson's not directed by the man himself, District 13: Ultimatum is a must see for fans of Besson's ridiculous action flicks, and also recommended to martial arts fans, which isn't something I'd say about most of Besson's other forays into the genre.
The Disc
I was gonna try and say some positive things about detail and whatever, but in short this DVD looks rubbish. The image juddered frequently, and at first I thought maybe it was just a disc my player struggled with, but when I popped it into my computer the image frequently broke up into horizontal, jagged lines. The problem is so frequent as to render the DVD next to worthless.

Audio is available in a 5.1 English dub, a DTS 5.1 English dub or a French… 2.0? What the fuck is this shit? The French is positively wimpy next to the DTS track, but then the 5.1 dub track also isn't much competition to the hearty DTS track. I guess if the French track had been 5.1 it would've eased the pain a little bit, but then given the 5.1 also pales next to the DTS it's probably irrelevant and begs the question: Why isn't the French track the DTS one??? Seriously, what happened here? The DTS has deep booms and thumps, and while the dubbing isn't as shit as usual I want to watch the movie in its original language. Adding further insult, the subtitles are dubtitles and they're for the hearing impaired so sounds are described in them too. The video quality makes the disc almost worthless, the audio cements it as a shithouse release.

The trailer for Go Fast plays on start up.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
District 13: Ultimatum is a stylish action flick, but it seems Icon aren't satisfied with just fucking up Asian films and have also taken on the challenge of destroying French movies. The fact that I enjoyed the movie despite its shoddy presentation speaks volumes about how entertaining it is, and I'm planning on upgrading this DVD for something that will really give the movie its due.
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