After virtually ignoring his own cinematic traditions for at least a half-dozen action flicks, Paris-born producer/writer Luc Besson went all-French with 2004’s District B13. He gave up HK chop-socky and/or Brit gangster for at least two good reasons: One was to incorporate Le Parkour, a Parisian style of punky acrobatics that treats cities as obstacle courses, a decision that resulted in his casting of one of Le Parkour’s creators, David Belle, as District B13’s star. The other is revealed by the movie’s original title, Banlieue 13. Banlieue means “suburb,” but it’s a term usually associated with the kind of isolated housing projects, populated heavily by people of Arab and African origin, that periodically erupt in rage. Set in 2010, but now seemingly reflecting 2005’s riots, the film doesn’t need to exaggerate very much to depict B13 as a lawless zone run by thugs and ignored by cops. In the first of two prologues, gymnastic vigilante Leito (Belle) destroys a large shipment of heroin stolen from local kingpin Taha (co-scripter Bibi Naceri); Taha and his boys retaliate by kidnapping Leito’s spitfire sister Lola (Dany Verissimo). Though Leito manges to rescue her, the siblings are ultimately betrayed by cowardly cops. A second preface introduces superhuman undercover cop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) as he shuts down an illegal casino run by Spanish mobsters, killing most of the gang in the process. Months later, it’s time to introduce Leito to Damien, then to send them to defuse a heisted nuclear bomb that’s fallen into the hands of Taha, who still has Lola as a hostage. The directorial debut of Pierre Morel, cinematographer of such Besson-produced actioners as The Transporter and Unleashed, District B13 is both kinetic and brutal. (Watch Leito improvise an effective guillotine, with his feet as the blade.) Belle and Raffaelli can really move, although Morel obscures their agility by cutting too often, Hollywood-style. The big surprise, though, is that the movie, for all its gleeful violence, also packs a social conscience. Besson and Naceri’s extra-lean (if preposterous) script includes references to the Iraq war and high unemployment, and its final twist sets up Leito’s comparison of contemporary French racism to the Holocaust. Ending with a bitter parody of bureaucratic justification, District B13 is an action flick that means to bust things up politically as well as physically. —Mark Jenkins