*Major Spoiler Alert*
I watched B13 when it first came out in 2004 and thought the storyline was different and interesting. An uncontrollable ghetto in Paris is walled off and left to fend for itself after the local government has given up on it, calling it Banlieue 13 or B13. Within the walls, Leito (played by David Belle, a founder of parkour) rages a one man war on the drug dealers to keep his building thug and drug free. At the beginning of the movie, he intercepts a huge shipment of drugs which causes the neighbouring drug lord, Taha (Bibi Naceri), to send his thugs in to retrieve them giving Leto a chance to show off his impressive parkour skills. In realiation, Taha kidnaps Leito’s sister, Lola. He rescues his sister and kidnaps Taha in return to deliver him to the police at the perimeter of the city. They are in the middle of abandoning their position by order of the government. Not wanting a confrontation against the overpowering number of Taha’s men, they imprison Leito and give Taha Lola. Leito kills the police captain in his rage.
Several months later undercover cop, Daniel Tomaso (Cyril Rafaelli) has infiltrated an underground casino and attempts to arrest the gangster that owns it. His extraction goes wrong and he has to fight his way in spectacular style. He’s immediately given a new assignment. He’s told that Taha has gotten his hands on an experimental neutron bomb that is set to detonate in 24 hours. He’s to convince Leito, who has been imprisoned for months, to lead him into Taha’s domain to disarm the bomb.
Daniel pretends to be a fellow prisoner and they escape to B13. Leito, however, sees through his rouse and abandons Daniel. Daniel fights his way back to Leito and tells him the truth and the two of them fight their way to the bomb. When they finally reach it, Daniel is texted the disarming code but Leito recognizes it as a reference to their location and deduces that it’s actually a trigger code. Daniel doesn’t believe him and tries to enter the code but Leito and Lola prevent him from doing so. The time runs out and the bomb doesn’t detonate, proving Leito right.
The two take the bomb into the city and get the security chief to admit that it was his plan to rid the city of the problem of the district. He does but doesn’t realize that he’s being filmed and his confession is being broadcasted across all channels. The result is a major scandal that brings in support for B13. The Leito and Damian part as friends.
It was a great movie especially if you’re into martial arts and parkour and can forgive a superficial plot that is just a backdrop for the action. David Belle and Cyril Rafaelli work very well together and the action was just fantastic. What made the film so good for me, besides the ass kicking and wall climbing, was the grittiness of the world the story was set in. It was dark, gloomy, you could almost smell the decay and feel the desperation of the people living in B13. The 2014 remake was a pale comparison that just didn’t live up to its predecessor.
Paul Walker plays cop, Daniel, and while he was good it just wasn’t the same without a partner for David Belle to kick ass with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Paul Walker’s but I don’t think he was right for the role. The story is pretty much the same with a change of location to Detroit and some sanitizing of the plot. RZA plays the gang leader but just didn’t across as scummy as Taha in the original. Even the ending isn’t as satisfying. Where in the original the two men who fought their way through the entire district became the heroes, the RZA’s character, the antagonist throughout the film, suddenly has a change of heart and becomes the hero. To me, this was rather blah. It came across as a last minute edit that no one bothered to make fit into the rest of the story.
Knowing that this is the last film Paul Walker completed before his death just adds to the bad taste the film left in my mouth. 🙁