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Film / District 13

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You took some wrong directions, friend. This ain't Monaco. It's Baghdad!

District 13 (French title Banlieue 13) is a 2004 French action film directed by Pierre Morel and written by Luc Besson.

In the near future, the worst ghettos (banlieues) of Paris are literally walled off. Banlieue 13, one of the worst of them, is run by the ruthless crime lord Taha. After Leito, the hero of the story, steals and destroys a shipment of Taha's drugs, Taha retaliates by kidnapping Leito's sister Lola. Leito rescues her, but is arrested by corrupt cops, who surrender his sister to Taha and his gang. Leito murders the police captain in retaliation, and is imprisoned.

Six months later, an undercover supercop named Damien is given an urgent mission: Taha has stolen a Neutron Bomb which has an automatic timer function engaged and set to detonate in less than 24 hours. Now with time running out, Damien is ordered to befriend Leito as a guide into the ghetto, which has degraded to an outright war zone in the police's absence. Though unwilling to trust him, Leito agrees to help Damien find and stop the bomb, but there's far more to this crisis than either of them know.

Features David Belle showcasing Le Parkour back before it was very well known in the English-speaking world. Dubbed into English as District 13 or District B13. A sequel, Banlieue 13: Ultimatum was released in 2009.

An English-language remake of this film, Brick Mansions, was released in North America on April 25, 2014, and in its native France two days earlier. It once again stars David Belle, this time sharing protagonist duties with Paul Walker in his last completed role before his death.

The first movie provides examples of:

  • Anarcho-Tyranny: The French government has given up on trying to police the ghettos (banlieues) because of the massively surging crime rates, allowing gangs to run them while leaving the citizens living there in the crossfire. Eventually, they conspire to wipe out everybody living there with a neutron bomb.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Damien excuses himself at knocking Leito off his way to deactivate the bomb.
  • Artistic License Martial Arts: Leito makes a big deal about how Damien's technical fighting style is a sign of being an undercover cop and not a street fighter like himself. However, in their climactic fight, Leito of all people scores not one, but two very slick grappling moves (first a Victor roll in response to a kick catch and later a kani basami from the floor), something you don't usually learn in the 'hood. However, given that Taha's mooks are shown watching Ultimate Fighting Championship, those things might be simple the last fad in B13 in-universe, implying Leito was referring to subtler mannerisms instead of fancy martial arts stuff when he blew up Damien's cover.
  • Bad Boss: Taha kills his mooks on the merest whim and for any failure. This comes back to bite him when they decide to kill him for his tyrannical lunacy.
  • Batman Gambit: Minister of Defense Krueger refuses to pay Taha for recovering the bomb, as he just wants Damien to introduce the code right there where the bomb is, not bringing it back. He probably believes a rascal like Taha will be pragmatic enough to leave the sale aside and just let Damien deactivate the bomb in order to at least save his life. However, unfortunately for him, Taha isn't afraid of the bomb because he is planning to send it back to the city in a missile if the sale goes awry.
  • Boxed Crook: Leito is first unknowingly recruited by the police and later allies himself with Damien for his own motives. Literally boxed, in fact, given that we are talking about a street fighter.
  • Car Cushion: One of the baddies lands on one in the first major chase scene.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Taha. From frantically shooting a knowingly unloaded gun against a fence of angry thugs to die while pointing at them with his hands like guns immediately after.
  • Chained Heat: A variation. Damien pretends to be a crook to get in with Leito, who works it out straight away and leaves him handcuffed, yet not to Leito, but to a steering wheel.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Yeti's bones are hard enough to break concrete with the fists and to survive to a block clock in the head, not to mention that he can take a John Woo-style flying dropkick in the belly without moving one inch off from his position. The film is quite physically realistic until that point (all the stunts are real and done without wires or CGI), but this oddity is never explained. If anything, the only reason for his super-endurance appears to be simply that he is fat.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted. When facing a squad of armed mooks, Damien flips a table before them and takes cover behind, but he does it just to remove himself from their line of vision and move along as the bullets go through the wood as real life ammunition would.
  • Combat Parkour: Done by both Damien and Leito.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The jumping around and martial arts are pretty fancy to look at, but the heroes have no problem grabbing whatever's at hand to use as a weapon.
  • Damsel in Distress: Lola, though only after the film shows her as a pretty capable gal herself.
  • Death Glare: Leito loves these, and especially notable is the one he throws to Minister of Defense Kruger after learning he has no problems with killing all the B13 inhabitants.
  • Destination Defenestration: More than once from the galleries of the casino Damien clears out at the beginning of the film.
  • Dirty Coward: When Leito goes to the police for help, the chief immediately caves to Taha's demands and lets him keep Leito's sister as a slave. When he offers Leito some half-hearted excuse about having "no choice", Leito forces the chief's head through the prison bars and breaks his neck.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Leito brings Taha to the police station and fully expects the clearly corrupt police that has been neglecting District 13 for years to put him behind bars (with the additional hope that a powerful kingpin like Taha doesn't happen to have connections with said corrupt police). The police submit to Taha's demands immediately, lock up Leito, and give Taha his sister.
    • Minister of Defence Krueger's plan to wipe out the District 13 through the neutron bomb is just awful. It leans fully on the points that the bomb is still in the district and that Damien is able to reach it to introduce the code before the time goes out, so if the bomb goes anywhere other than District 13 or Damien fails at find it there in time, it all goes down (possibly catastrophically so). The fact that he refuses to pay for the bomb is revealing: it makes clear that he expected Taha to reasonably abandon the sale and just let Damien introduce the code for free in order to save his life, but it also shows he never even considered that Taha might Take a Third Option and just send the damn thing away from his district.
    • He could also have executed his plan much more successfully if the detonation code of the bomb had been a random number and not a mix of suspicious digits (the code of the district, the exact date, etc). Admittedly, Leito would have probably deduced it anyways thanks to the rest of tracks, but the code was still a vital clue.
  • The Dragon: K2 serves as Taha's right hand man. The crew defers to him after killing Taha since he has inherent leadership compared to them who just wanted to kill Taha when he was unable to pay them.
  • Dystopia: Banlieue 13 has turned into a crime-infested ghetto where the people live in fear of Taha and his gang, and the government has stopped trying to help and taken its hands off them.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After the umpteenth time Taha kills one of his mooks for failing him, they turn on him even when he can still pay them.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: B13 isn't immediately restored to pristine conditions, but the final scene shows the beginnings of the rebuilding efforts.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Leito and Damien concoct one to take minister Kruger down after his failed plan.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: K2 never really hurts Lola (apart from manhandling her), and tells the other mooks to leave her alone. He also looks distinctly uncomfortable with how Taha treats her. Later he turns his back and is visibly upset while the thugs finally gun down Taha. In the end, he teams up with Leito and Damian to disarm the nuclear bomb, balking at Taha's plan to destroy half of Paris and kill millions of people.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Taha, to his own thugs:
    You are all a bunch of useless dipshits.
  • Fat Bastard: K2 and Yeti. While K2 is revealed to be much more level headed and compassionate when he doesn't have to enforce for Taha Yeti is just a violent brute as big as two men.
  • Fighting Fingerprint: Leito is able to deduce Damien's identity as a cop after seeing him fight, noting that his style looks too formally trained for a supposed street scoundrel.
  • Forced Friendly Fire: Undercover detective Damien has to get out of a dangerous casino the hard way. So he pulls off an impressive example of the trope, shooting several mooks from multiple angles by locking up a thug's arm in various ways. He also shoots the thug through his leg. He then grabs another mook's arm and forces him to spray bullets around harmlessly before knocking him out.
  • Foreshadowing: When Taha tries to extort money from Damien for the neutron bomb, as Taha has a launcher to send the bomb back to the middle of Paris, Damien pleads it will kill millions. Taha points out that's the kind of thing you should think about before building a neutron bomb, as it turns out the French government wanted casualties when they made the bomb.
  • Foreign Remake: Brick Mansions, again with David Belle as the Le Parkour-savvy crook.
  • Gangsta Style: Used by Damien twice in the casino fight scene. The first time when he shoots a thug while standing on top of a slot machine and the second time during the Gun Fu sequence while armlocking a thug.
  • Getting High on Their Own Supply: Taha is often seen snorting his own cocaine in his private quarters. This makes him even more unhinged than a violent drug kingpin would already be, to the point where he'll often murder his subordinates before going back to getting off on his own supply. This also proves his downfall, since it makes him too crazy for his minions to ultimately put up with when he can't pay them anymore.
  • Giant Mook: Yeti is unnaturally Big and tough.
  • Godwin's Law:
    • Leito invokes this, and with some reason, though all it does is piss Damien off by comparing the government he works for with the Nazis (which is particularly offensive in France).
    Damien: You don't murder two million people because you can't solve their problems!
    Leito: They murdered six million because none of them were blonde with blue eyes!
    • The corrupt police chief also believes this telling Leito the barbed walls should clue him in what the government really wants to do with the people in the District.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: To spite Leito after he almost got Taha arrested, Taha keeps Leito's sister Lola as a chained-up slave and whipping toy in his quarters, forcing her to wear a hooker outfit and feeding her his drugs.
  • Government Conspiracy: The theft of the bomb was engineered by the government to wipe out the slums.
  • Gun Fu: Neatly showed by Damien when he guns down several mooks by armlocking another henchman and making him fire his own pistol against them. In the DVD extended edition, he takes another guy down with a flying armbar and repeats the method before shooting him the last from the hold.
  • Heroic BSoD: Damien has one when the timer on the bomb reaches zero but fails to detonate, revealing that Leito's proclamation of Godwin's Law was correct and the minister did plan on killing everyone in Banlieue 13. The mix of shock for being still alive after what he believed it was imminent death and for realizing that his superiors are really genocide wannabes after all reflects quite on his face.
  • Improvised Weapon: Several, but a detached steering wheel deserves a mention.
  • I Want Them Alive!: Cause of the opening Chase Scene. Taha wanted Leito alive for stealing his drugs and making him suffer and is not happy when K2 accidentally implies they could have gunned him down if it wasn't from orders.
  • Karma Houdini: Leito is apparently let off for killing the corrupt chief in the beginning after helping Damien in B13. Sure, the guy in question really had it coming, but that was still a government official he killed.
  • Kill the Poor: Turns out that the Minister's plan was to set off the neutron bomb inside of B13 all along.
  • Klingon Promotion: An unusually democratic example, when after one too many impromptu executions and the loss of all his operating funds, the assembled mooks gun down Taha and immediately recognize K2 as their new leader.
  • Knuckle Cracking: A neck variation by Yeti.
  • Le Parkour: David Belle, one of the founders of parkour, plays the hero and shows off his skills. Cyril Raffaelli, another skilled practitioner of parkour, does the same.
  • Made of Iron: Damien gets punched around and even powerbombed over a pile of bricks. He looks adequately dazed and worn afterwards, but nothing more. The fact he's still alive after those hits (and the ones he receives in the climactic fight against Leito) is notable by itself.
  • Magic Countdown: The countdown on the bomb is set for 24 hours, but since it's not a series, it is shortened considerably. See also Heroic BSoD.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Damien and Leito are played by Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle respectively, two incredibly attractive, extremely athletic men who spend the film going elaborate parkour and martial arts fight scenes.
    • Of the two, Damien seems to be a bit of a Chick Magnet. The series only has three named female character, who of which hit on him and one of whom is his girlfriend.
    • Leito, for his part, seems to find the existence of long-sleeved shirts offensive. He prefers to wear tanktops, a partially zipped hoodie, or nothing at all. A fashion choice that serves to excellently show off David Belle's toned, tattooed torso to perfection.
  • Master of Unlocking: Damien unlocks his cuffs with ease. Even Leito calls him a master of the stuff.
  • Neck Snap: Damien finishes a mook this way.
  • Neutron Bomb: The unrealistic Depopulation Bomb version commonly seen in media.
  • Oh, Crap!: Right in Damien's face when his superior refuses negotiating with Taha and nonchalantly hangs up the phone to leave Damien to his fate. However, the latter has the Nerves of Steel to hide it and pretend he is being given confirmation.
  • Only in It for the Money: The only reason that Taha's mooks put up with his tyranny is because of the paycheck. Sure enough, as soon as he loses all his money thanks to the heroes, they immediately turn on him.
  • Pet the Dog: A small one by Damien when he turns down K2's offer to give him Leito and freely leave with the bomb, which would have been the easiest way for him to fulfill his mission. After an odyssey of barking at each other and getting himself almost screwed by Leito several times, Damien has come to care for him enough to protect the street fighter from falling on the thugs's hands if he can avoid it.
  • Police Are Useless: In the first 20 minutes of the first film, Leito kidnaps the druglord Taha from his fortified gang compound, and delivers him and several kilos of cocaine to the last remaining police station in District 13. The police chief, who is already on his way out as the station is being shut down for good, sees the station being surrounded by dozens of armed men working for Taha. Realizing that they're outgunned, he lets Taha walk out with his drugs AND Leito's sister Lola, and imprisons Leito for his own "protection". Averted by Deuteragonist Damien, who is an ass-kicking By-the-Book Cop extraordinaire.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: EVERYBODY in Taha's massive gang other than Taha himself only works for him because he pays very well. They're willing to put up with his Bad Boss tendencies because of that, but this means nobody is truly loyal to him. As soon as the French government blocks his overseas accounts, his accountant resigns and his bodyguards gun him down so somebody more sane can take charge. The only possible exception is Yeti who seems to be treated as a guard dog.
  • Ship Tease: Lola kisses Damien for the kicks at the end of the film.
  • Shoe Phone: Supercop Damien shows pulls a regular mobile phone from the sole of his sneaker in a small bit of Hammerspace (in a real sneaker, it would likely end up broken). It is less colorful than the classic examples, but enough to amuse Leito.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Instrumental to the film. While both are pretty street-wise, Damien and Leito tilt to opposite sides in the scale: Damien is The Idealist and Leito is The Cynic. At the end, Leito is right.
  • Strapped to a Rocket: Taha makes sure to tie Leito's sister Lola (whom he had already kept as a catatonic slave for about a year) to the nuclear missile he stole before shooting it at the Paris city centre.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Both Leito and Damien clearly distrust each other from the start, but they are smart enough to know that teaming up is the only way to solve the matter. At the end, they have become friends.
  • Tell Me How You Fight: Leito deduces Damien is an undercover cop because his martial arts and parkour style looks a bit too polished, as if learned in a dojo and not on the streets.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: Of all the ghettoes of Paris, B13 is supposedly the worst.
  • Totalitarian Gangsterism: In the walled-off crime-ridden districts of Paris, the major gangs function as de facto feudal overlords, as the government has all but given up on trying to police the area. For instance, they're perfectly capable of kidnapping the protagonist's sister from her job as a supermarket clerk with nobody batting an eye.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Man, the world is really fucked up in... 2010?note  But actually, that's about right.
  • Vigilante Man: Leito is in an one-man war against the mafia.
  • Wrestler in All of Us:
    • Damien knocks out a mook taking his back by doing a rolling snapmare over a table.
    • Later Yeti gives Damien a military press drop and a gunwrench powerbomb over bricks. Ouch.
    • Also, in the DVD extended edition, Damien takes out a mook by doing a shooting star knee drop on his back.
  • You Have Failed Me: Taha kills his mooks for their failures, repeatedly. Deconstructed when as soon as it's revealed that he's lost most of his money, his mooks turn on him.