At one point in Luc Besson's District 13: Ultimatum, cop hero Damien intones seriously, "The Constitution is my Bible." The politics in this story of near-future justice are simple, like its pleasures - which include watching parkour badassery in Paris.
This flick is a sequel District 13, also written by Besson, which is about what happens when the French government walls off a "bad" neighborhood in Paris ala Escape from New York. Crime flourishes in the unpoliced District 13. Only parkour master and good cop Damien - aided by fellow parkour badass Leito, who lives in D-13 - can set things right. Most of the movie is taken up with watching these two hot, ultrafit guys bouncing and jumping from the Paris ghetto to some government offices next to the Seine, delivering justice for the disenfranchised. It really looks great, especially combined with the driving, electro-worldbeat music.
Besson is the futuristic-action writer/director behind movies like Subway, The Transporter, and The Fifth Element, and he knows how to evoke frenetic urban action with a few deft strokes. We begin by watching Damien take out a massive drug-dealing operation single-handedly; at the same time, Leito is blowing up parts of the D-13 walls and fleeing police parkour-style, which Damien at one point refers to as "playing Spiderman." And these guys are about to get into a lot more trouble, fast.
There's a conspiracy brewing in the French government. One M. Gassman, who heads a corporation not-so-subtly named Harriburton, is scheming to start a war between police and residents of D-13 so that rioting will get so bad that the district will have to be evacuated and bombed. Then he can move in with Harriburton and redevelop the area into apartments for the middle class. ("Just like in Iraq," he says. Hmmm - what could he be getting at? I'm having a hard time figuring out the ambiguous political message here.) To foment the war, Gassman gets thugs from his paramilitary outfit DISS to shoot some cops and create a video that makes it appear the D-13 gangs did it.
Meanwhile, a D-13 kid just happened to film the DISS guys shooting the cops. Now it's a race against time to get that kid's flash memory card into the right hands - and luckily he handed it off to Leito before the DISS guys got him. Unfortunately, Gassman anticipated that good guy Damien might figure out his plan, so he framed him for drug possession. That means Leito has to parkour his way into the prison, bust Damien out, and hope against hope that he can unite the gangs of D-13 so that they can get enough badass parkour guys together to save their home.
In between all the seriously cool action scenes, there are some laughable moments with the gangs where we learn their superpowers. The Asian gang leader can fight with knives stuck in her hair; the white supremacist gang leader can kill by smashing his head into you; the African head honcho is seriously tough; the Arab gang leader has got all the moves; and the "Mafia ethnicity" guy (seriously - what ethnicity was he?) is good with guns. As they plan to expose Gassman for the evil mastermind he is, you feel like you're watching the zoomy, fun, happy-ending version of third world democracy movements. Which sounds weird, but actually works somehow when you're seeing it on screen.
This is a movie that never takes itself too seriously, except when it comes to action. Which is to say, it delivers on what it promises and keeps you entertained the entire time. If you're looking for an awesome action flick this weekend, District 13: Ultimatum is it.