Hong Kong Cinema

District 13 Ultimatum (Banlieue 13 Ultimatum)

  • Made: 2009
  • DVD: Region 2 PAL
  • Company: Momentum Pictures
  • Length: 96 mins
  • Picture: Widescreen 16:9 anamorphic
  • Sound: DDD5.1
  • Language: French language with English subtitles, English dubbed
  • Extras: "Making of" featurette, Deleted / Additional Scenes, Music Video, Trailers
  • Classification: 15


Patrick Allesandrin


Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Philippe Torreton, Daniel Duval, Elodie Yung

District 13 Ultimatum - (Banlieue 13 Ultimatum) (D13-U) is a sequel to the much loved martial-arts and parkour movie from 2004, starring David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli. It was one of the few credible instances of how to make an engaging and thrilling modern action movie combining martial arts with guns, explosions and car chases. As with the original, Luc Besson takes the production and writing credits, however the directing is handled by a relatively unknown Patrick Allesandrin. Commercially, it actually outperformed the original at the French speaking box-office, taking nearly $9m, rather than $7m in the original (however, when adjusting for inflation they are both in the same ball-park).

Given that there has been a fair few years between the two films it is interesting to compare how the two stars have performed once in the international spotlight. Cyril has continued to develop as an action star in films such as Die Hard 4.0 whilst continuing his good work behind the camera. Whereas David Belle has remained relatively anonymous. For those familiar with the first instalment, it will have given any fan a “butterflies in stomach” moment when realising that a sequel has been made, but the question is whether reality matches the hype?


Much like the first instalment, District 13 (Banlieue 13) is a sectioned off lawless district in the centre of Paris. Without schools, police or basic infrastructure, it is run by gangs and cartels with little hope or prospects for those caught within its walls. It is a challenging, but lightweight comment on how certain areas of Paris and other leading global cities are becoming increasingly excluded from society and where the rule of law is second to the rule within the community. As with the first film there is a risk that District 13 will be blown up, and there are plenty of shifty politicians with dubious motives operating behind the scenes. The only hope is for the unlikely team of local loner (Leito) David Belle and dedicated cop Damien (Cyril) to save the day once again.


To avoid wasting anyone’s time I will begin by stating that D13-U was a disappointment. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I cannot get past the fact that by the end of the movie I was underwhelmed. D13-U starts off with a pumping hip-hop soundtrack but it soon emerges that whoever wrote this script was mostly interested in creating a shallow cliché riddled Grand Theft Auto styled action movie. D13-U is now portrayed with bunch of gangs dominating the crime scene (all the predictable groupings are here; Triads, Afro-American, Skin-head, Latino, North-African etc etc). I was probably prepared to forgive the producers for this lazy device, but in a disappointing finale the future of D13 can only be saved by these warring factions coming together to fight the common enemy (yawn).

This could have been forgettable had David and Cyril provided another bombastic performance, but their hearts just do not seem in it? Cyril gives a good effort, including some worryingly convincing cross-dressing, but David in particular seems largely detached from the whole proceedings. This is particularly evident in the action sequences, where it looked like David might have been carrying an injury as the parkour is heavily edited and lacks the frightening authenticity of the original.


This well presented DVD from Momentum comes with an exciting holographic case and a usual fare of extras (deleted scenes, music video, audio options for an English Dub and trailers).


D13-U provides some memorable moments and plenty of thrills and spills to keep the viewer entertained, but something magical is missing from this sequel. I cannot work out what the real problem is, perhaps the lack of spark between the leads, the lack of jaw-dropping action or the paper-thin characters? However, I am still glad that films like this are being made, so bring on another sequel and finish it off in style!