An undercover Detroit cop navigates a dangerous neighborhood that's surrounded by a containment wall with the help of an ex-con in order to bring down a crime lord and his plot to devastate the entire city.
This movie is exactly the same as Banlieue 13, or District 13 as it was known as internationally. The director is new, but he uses Luc Besson's script, which is - with a few minor twists and details changed - exactly the same as Banlieue 13! David Belle plays Lino (formerly known as Leïto in the original) and Paul Walker (Cyril Raffaelli in the former) jumps in as his companion Damien. The villains are played by new actors, and Taha Bemamud has a new name - Tremaine Alexander. He's played by RZA, which is pretty cool, but not cool enough to keep this movie from being a total fiasco.
But maybe I'm being biased. I'm saying this because I loved Banlieue 13. It still stands as one of my favorite movies ever. I loved everything about it. I loved the soundtrack as much as I loved the filmography, the script, the fighting choreography and the characters themselves. The plot flowed perfectly and you were always in the loop, always on the front row seat savoring the detail and action and every tiny facet of the movie. Even the intro scene was perfect, the one that starts on the ground with heavy hiphop music and slowly pans up to reveal the walled-in view of the slum known as District 13, following a path of smoke and riddled bullet-holes in broken windows before the main character is revealed. Leïto. Even the district itself looked much better in the original, much grimier, as did the transitions.
What made the original even better were that both the main characters were great martial artists and masters in parkour, and it shows in their every movement, not just in the masterful fights. It's easy to see that Paul Walker isn't for real, even if he makes it seem like he always has things under control. The scene were he falls out from the ceiling after Lino just did one of his awesome stunt-jumps through a high-up hole in a wall is one much-needed jest at his talents, and yet David Belle, the former star, is the one commonly being told to shut up or get out of the way. Paul is the one unlocking his cuffs, twice, and usually the one telling him when to take it easy or stop or calm down. It's strange they seem like such good friends at the end when they never get along during the adventure itself, and the end is actually the only part where I start telling myself this remake might not be so bad after all. The ending feels alright... but everything up till that point is all but honorable homage.
No disrespect to Paul Walker, especially since this was his last official movie before his tragic (and much too early) death last year, but with his lack of skill and tactical finesse in this movie I feel he steals a spotlight he doesn't deserve.
Then again, the transition from French to American might have worked fine with everything short of David Belle himself. I was wondering if that was actually him at the intro, or if they were just using someone who looked like him, because he just didn't seem to be there. Even if his stunts are all new and all amazing, they just don't match up to the originals, and it feels like he lacks the same emotional output and intensity as he did in the original. I don't know if this is due to him feeling unfamiliar in the Hollywood setting or if that's just how the director wanted it - with Paul Walker in the spotlight. Or maybe he's not too fond of doing the exact same things all over again. Whatever it is, it doesn't work. It comes off a corny, undeserving remake of a masterful classic. And did I mention David Belle's voice is dubbed-over? That's the topping of the cake. Or rather, the bottom of this plate.
Despite this critique I can't lower the score too low though. I am biased. It might have been a great movie by itself, but comparing this to the original is like comparing a brick to a mansion.
rated 3/5: not bad
Maybe I missed the ending on this one last time, because that pretty much redeemed it. Overall it wasn't bad. The switch-arounds were interesting - even though it was rarely from good to better, and Damien and Lino (why change his name but not the former - even though the latter's the centerpiece of the story, founder of Parkour and the only major re-occurring actor?) don't make that bad a combo after all - even if I have a hard time getting used to Leito's (that's what he's supposed to be called!) dubbed voice.
The first one was perfect though, and this won't ever match up to that, but as far as American ports go it could've been worse. I assume I left such a critical review the first time around since I was just disappointed it didn't match up, and that the changes they'd made with regard to script and what-not always seemed to simplify and censor rather than improve - but if you watch it for the action and don't do too much thinking it's not all bad.
It's like a hybrid between both of the original two movies, with both the pros of the first and the cons of the second (included too much shaky cam and notably sped up flights and fights). And that first grenade. Seriously? They should've had better special effects in 2014!
I'd better not start analyzing things again or maybe that bad taste'll come back... but it really wasn't that bad. Just enjoy the ride and appreciate the twists instead of comparing them. (It's now a three leaning towards a four.)
rated 3/5: not bad