Magnolia Pictures // 2009 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 19th, 2010
The epic saga of a couple of guys in loose-fitting trousers kicking dudes in the face to save a French slum continues.
District B13 was a surprise action treat; a Luc Besson-generated, Parkour-promoting, hyperkinetic mélange of flamboyant set-pieces and a story that made no sense. As a fan of that pedigree, I was not disappointed with Ultimatum.
The last time we saw District 13 -- the infamous, crime-ridden slum in the middle of Paris -- BFFs Leito (David Belle) and Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) had just saved it from getting wiped out by the French government. Turns out the government still isn't thrilled with its continued existence, so a shadowy agency puts another plan into place to level the district.
Supercop Damien gets caught in the middle of the conspiracy and turns once again to his free-running pal Leito to help him uncover the sinister scheme. And you know what that means...punching, flipping, wall-running, somersaulting and crossdressing.
Yep, crossdressing. Ultimatum opens bizarrely, with Damien infiltrating a crime syndicate in disguise, as he did in the first film. This time he's dressed as a call-girl with a hole in the back of his pants. Why the criminals didn't catch on to the fact that the female escort had the build of a free safety is beyond me.
So that's how we get rolling, our hero parading around in a skimpy red dress (and doubled by a real woman -- the switching back between a svelte lady and a muscle-bound dude with a lantern jawline in edits is jarring) and it sets the tone for what's to come in Ultimatum. Namely a very light-hearted action romp, something that's a lot less violent than its predecessor but a little more fun.
The story is laughably moronic. Once again the government has opted to raze District 13 to the ground and no one in the President's cabinet seems to have a huge problem with firing missiles into the heart of Paris. Even dumber is the clumsy political metaphors Luc Besson tosses into his screen play; once the district is leveled, the malevolent corporation "Harriburton" is going to swoop in and rebuild and make obscene profits or something. Also dumb, the bloodthirsty gang leaders' unanimous decision to embrace a comprehensive public works strategy in lieu of their profitable drug and arms enterprises.
Whatever. If the film had been playing it serious these would have been mortal wounds, but from the get-go, Ultimatum is just goofing around. The opening fight features Damien, fresh out of his miniskirt, battling an onslaught of foes with a priceless Van Gogh painting (why he didn't just hide it underneath a couch and come back for it later is never explained). Later, Damien and Leito escape the cops by driving a small car up a conveniently placed ramp truck into the second story of an office building and out the window. Toward the end, the female Asian gang leader takes out a roomful of guys with her ponytail. Weird, all of it, but amusing and never boring.
Two complaints about the action, though: 1) David Belle's Parkour antics are not as copious or impressive as they were in the first film, which is a bummer because the guy is a human special effect and 2) a big confrontation is played for a laugh, all well and good and fitting the tone of the film, but we're denied a slam-bang finale. Instead, we get this line: "I can really use a brandy."
Magnolia's Blu-ray is great. The 2.35:1 transfer is gorgeous, pushing the varied color palette of the slum and the fight venues straight out of the television with vigor. The resolution is eyeball-stabbing sharp, the visual fidelity rendering the mayhem with skill and power. Ultimatum on Blu is a joy to watch. And hear, too. The 5.1 DTS Master Audio mix an aggressive typhoon of techno and martial arts sound effects. Make sure you go with the French mix; the English dub stinks.
Extras include a very good, multi-part making-of documentary (in HD); deleted and extended scenes, all of which are worthwhile action bits; a robust production diary; a music video and a brief HDNet featurette.
Big, dopey, hyperactive fun, packaged in a winning technical presentation, joined by some solid extra features -- travel back to the District.
Review content copyright © 2010 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Video