'District B13'

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"District B13" is just plain, action-packed fun with very little to tax the brain but lots to dazzle the eye and invigorate the spirit. Since the fight scenes, colored by high-flying parkour momentum, are the big draw, the DVD doesn't disappoint with its extra features geared toward enhancing these sequences.

Set in a not-so-distant 2010, elite cop Damien (Cyril Raffaeli) reluctantly teams up with criminal Leito (David Belle) to infiltrate the gang-ruled ghetto District B13, which has been separated from Paris proper by an isolation wall. Damien needs to defuse a bomb that has been whisked away there, while Leito is bent on saving his sister Lola (Dany Verissimo) from the clutches of the area's gang leader.

Directed by Pierre Morel, DP on previous action films like "The Transporter" and "Unleashed," and written/produced by Luc Besson, "District B13" unapologetically delivers action with a European flair, where villains are ugly and unredeeming, and heroes execute the most unbelievable stunts. Best of all, the action is raw and real, benefitting from skilled martial artists and not wire work.

While the plot isn't deep, part of the making-of featurette is devoted to the actors and filmmakers acknowledging the social significance of the ghetto and isolation wall in the film, how it isn't so different from real life. But then the featurette gets down to the meat of the film: the action. Raffaeli doubles as the stunt cooridinator/fight choreaographer and gives insight into all the thought and rehearsal it takes to bring action sequences -- like the big casino fight or Belle's leap through a narrow window -- to the screen.

The featurette also covers the casting process, which allows us to see more of the lovely Verissimo, who was given far too little to do in the testosterone-heavy film. Although the men did most of the stunts, she endured hardship as well being chained on a rooftop all alone for two days straight. Belle also gets a chance to give introduce parkour a philosophy of living and moving he co-founded that translates into incredible freedom on the screen. A good half of the featurette, however, is a love-fest about each of the actors, and while endearing, it got old after a while.

The extended fight scene in the casino is fun to relive, and the outtakes are a quick way to absorb the lighthearted and loving atmosphere on set, more so than the long-winded behind-the-scenes feature did.

In all, the DVD doesn't disappoint, but I must confess that I'm confused that once again, the filmmakers used the theatrical one-sheet for the DVD cover. On it, Verissimo and Raffaeli are featured prominently, and so is Belle -- except that he's turned around so you're looking at the back of his head. This strange oversight is made even more ridiculous on the screen for the special features menu option, in which the back of his head makes a solo appearance.

STUDIO: Magnolia Pictures
RELEASE DATE: September 5
RATING: R
PRICE: $26.98 each
TIME: 84 min.
DVD EXTRAS: "The Making of District B13" featurette; Extended Fight Sequence; Outtakes
INTERNET SITE: For more info go to www.magpictures.com

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