District 13 Philippe Morel

Everything about District 13 smacks of laziness and moral turpitude, the kind of slapped-together political tract that could only come from the Luc Besson factory.

Mix hardened street tough Leito (David Belle) with by the book cop Damien (Cyril Raffielli), have them fight the mean streets of a near-future Paris where the banlieues are walled off to protect the tonier neighbourhoods, and blammo: significance.

Oh, sure, it’s all about local pride, as Leito stands for the forgotten outer regions of the City of Light, while Damien is disillusioned to criminal police neglect, but the mission statement is tarnished by its willingness to traffic in the very racial stereotypes that it ought to be debunking.

"Good” and "bad” thugs are easy to spot — the former are the Scarface types who swipe neutron bombs and hold them ransom — and the Manichean dichotomy doesn’t leave room for complexity. This would make the movie easy to dismiss were it not for one thing: the action scenes are good. Great, actually. Make that superb, with Belle hurtling through the air in some French extreme sport style called "parkour” and Raffielli taking on countless opponents while busting up a gambling den. And their athletic grace and impossible agility do the unthinkable: they make this husk of a movie worth watching.

One wishes they could be married to a better script, but the chirpy Smokey the Bear moralising almost fits the innocent derring-do they execute so well; it’s not enough to erase the more egregious ideological sins, but plenty to make you brush them aside.

There’s more entertainment pound for pound here than in any other film in release: action fans, miss it at your peril. (Alliance Atlantis)