Monday, August 03, 2009
"Banlieue" literally translates as "suburb," but colloquially means "the hood"--- the French have saved their inner cities, but at the cost of moving the Projects out into the country. In this French film produced by Luc Besson, Banlieu 13 has been walled off from the rest of France, and given over to the gangs.
Well, it's no sillier an idea than Escape from New York.
And, like Escape from New York, the scientifictional premise is little more than an excuse for a whole lot of action scenes. Except that the action scenes in this one are really, really nifty.
The film stars David Belle, considered the inventor of le parkour, and martial artist/action choreographer Cyril Raffaelli. Neither are actors exactly, but they turned out to be much better than I would have expected, and more credible than most American action stars, if only because they do their own stunts. (And most excellent stunts they are.)
I won't bother to explain the plot, because the plot really doesn't matter. But the model who plays David Belle's sister is fun, if underutilized, and the various gangsters are amusing. (All the minor characters, in fact, are exceptionally well drawn, possibly because Besson's co-writer is character actor Bibi Nessari, who also plays one of the minor characters.)
But the real star of the film are the stunts. Raffaelli worked on the action choreography for three months prior to commencing principal photography, and it shows.
If you're tired of waiting for the next Tony Jaa film, or are deeply nostalgic for the sorts of movies Jackie Chan was making in the 80's, then this is a perfectly acceptable substitute.