Listen to Austin 360 Radio

'District 13' lacks punch but won't disappoint fans

John DeFore
David Belle returns as Leïto, who's called upon help a friend bust out of jail in the sequel 'District 13.' The film's actor isn't remarkable, but it should satisfy fans of the fighting genre.

Bad news first: There is practically no parkour in this sequel to the film that promised to make its biggest proponent an action star.

If you're saying "par-what?," then we can probably agree that the first "District 13" didn't make David Belle the next Jackie Chan — even after James Bond borrowed Belle's run-jump-dodge-climb moves to get his "Casino Royale" reincarnation off to a good start.

Belle returns here, but only as second fiddle to big, bald Cyril Raffaelli, whose action chops stretch beyond Belle's niche. The movie wastes no time displaying Raffaelli's hand-to-hand fighting skills in a big set piece that starts with the actor in drag, proceeds to his single-handed capture of a dozen or so druglords, and winds up with what Joe Bob Briggs might call Van-Gogh-fu.

Heroics or no, Raffaelli's Captain Damien Tomaso is soon framed and arrested by corrupt cops who intend to trigger a war between polite, tourist-friendly Paris and the walled-up ghetto, District 13, that is ruled by innumerable gangs. No worries: Tomaso makes a cell call to old pal Leïto (Belle), who arrives for a jailbreak within minutes.

The story, penned by adrenaline junkie Luc Besson, is pretty thin stuff, and without the novelty of parkour feats, the action isn't terribly noteworthy either. But it moves quickly, offers a panoply of ridiculous ethnic caricatures and tosses out some half-hearted Halliburton slams before dropping its big bombs — so chances are, fight fans won't do much complaining.

Rating: R for violence, language, drugs. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. Theater: Alamo Ritz.