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Friday, December 15, 2006

DVD Watch: District B13

I'm kinda on break from gaming for a while. I've got either tendonitis or carpal in one wrist (I can't get doctors to agree and from what I can tell - it doesn't really matter). It normally isn't much of a bother because I've gotten so used to occasionally worrying about it and keeping it from getting really aggravated. So instead of playing through more Justice League Heroes last night, we popped in District B13.

It's hard not write a phrase like "a triumph of style over substance" when it comes to a film like B13. The characters are two dimensional stock archetypes that in this day and age could probably be written with a decent shell script and some XML. The plot is only slightly varied from virtually every "boy finds shiny thing, boy loses shiny thing, boy beats up lots and lots of people to get shiny thing back" kung fu film ever seen. There's some social commentary which barely rises past a muttering.

Who cares? LIke most kung fu films, you're really there to see the action. Most of the action in B13 is parkour or free running based. As I mentioned with my review of Casino Royale, parkour is essentially a 2.0 version of a car chase scene. It's more vibrant, more personal, more frenetic and a lot of fun to watch. Martial arts also play a big role, especially with Damien's scenes. The lack of computer graphics and wirework is almost oddly refreshing. Like watching an old trick being done for the first time all over again. There's a few sequences which will make you wince as you wonder how they didn't break someone in the process.

It's quick and fairly shallow. The Girl called it "a great short film that somehow ran long". Like most movies of this caliber, you wish, if anything, there was more action scenes and even less talking. Someone needs to be bold enough to make a ninety minute feature film without a line of dialogue.

So I'd recommend B13 as a reference movie if nothing else. This is an evolutionary bridge from the Jackie Chan movies of old to the action movies of the future - and if anything it's great to see it done in a pure form. After all, one of the main characters is played by David Belle who founded parkour. So B13 is to free running scenes as Bullitt was to car chases.

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