Year Released: 2006
Directed by: Pierre Morel
Starring: David Belle , Cyril Raffaelli, Tony D’Amario, Danny Verissimo, Bibi Naceri
(R, 85 min.)
"No good deed goes unpunished." Anonymous
Forget your stereotype of the cigarette smoking Frenchman who wiles away his day sipping coffee and spewing anti-American vitriol at the local café. These Parisians, as well as the actors who perform all their own stunts, are clearly cut from French Foreign Legion cloth.
Seeing the real thing as the two leads, Leito (David Belle) and Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) leap from urban rooftops, Hollywood’s third rehash of the X-Men and the upcoming Superman, seem both silly and contrived, not to mention that superman looks a little too cute in his tights and shiny cape. Can you say “girly man?”
Former stuntman, Raffaelli certainly would not earn Arnold’s contemptuous label, nor would Belle’s Leito, who honed his skills in the sport of Parkour, which combines running and martial arts. And yes, for a change, these are the good guys.
It is Taha, the nihilistic drug pusher, who could use a few workouts, not to mention a mega dose of the milk of human kindness. Played by Bibi Naceri, who also helped pen the script, he is about as ruthless and unabashedly evil as any James Bond Baddie, although he doesn’t seem to enjoy his nefarious deeds at quite the same high level. Yes, he does polish off his loyal soldiers if they fail him, but it with a simple bullet to the brain, not the more creative means employed by 007’s opponents, such as succumbing to sharks, crocodiles, gold paint, or poison dipped pointy shoes worn by matronly hellhags.
The plot is violent, simple, or perhaps simplistic, save for the social context that elevates it. The year is 2010 and Paris has walled off its worst ghettos, urban jungles run, for the most part, by drug pushers and thugs. However, one man, Leito, refuses to yield to the contagious corruption and filth around him, dedicating his existence to finding and destroying the drugs that enslave the B 13 residents - no romantic French names for these districts.
Leito succeeds in destroying the pilfered white powder, and in a breath stopping chase that follows, he evades a troop of Taha’s henchmen, careening himself off rooftops and down terraces in a muscle pumping run that puts Hollywood’s action films in the also ran column.
Taha gets revenge, first by mowing down most of his unsuccessful soldiers and then kidnapping Leito’s little sister, Lola, with an emphasis on little, as played by diminutive fireball, Dany Verissimo. (Is my pro Italian bias showing, or do all these buff Frenchmen and women really have Roman roots?)
Ironically, Leito is able to rescue li’le sis, and bring Thug Taha to justice (see photo above), but the local police refuse the package he delivers to their front door. It seems they have been given orders to clear out of the district. This is their last day, and the retiring police captain doesn’t want any paperwork to interfere with his planned celebration that evening.
He is even so accommodating to captured thug Taha, that he returns little Lola to him, ensuring his rapid death at the hands of her big bro. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, so Leito winds up behind bars while Taha takes on Lola as a drug-fed sex slave who sits at his feet on a leash, eyes glazed over in permanent indignity.
The plot takes a new twist when the police call on Damien (Raffaelli), their toughest and most meticulous undercover cop, to defuse a bomb that has ended up in the hands of Taha. But to get into the walled off district they need an inside man.
You guessed it. They spring Leito to help out Mr. Undercover Hardboiled.
What follows is the predictable reluctant buddy scenario -- Damien, who fights too clean and can’t improvise, paired with street savvy Leito, who refuses to buy into their mission.
All this set to the a pulsating rap track by Da Octopuss, as the final scenes roller coaster past several dead bodies, greased with a few plot surprises and bureaucratic back stabbings to keep up the speed, and finally settle to a stop with a resolution that promises some hope.
A madcap ride, but the narcotic rap music and violence may be as dangerous as the powdery stuff for impressionable adolescents.
What with all the roof top shenanigans in this walled off section of Paris, there isn’t a heck of a lot of time to cook for the perfect French soirée. These guys are lucky if they have a few minutes to grill up some sausages on the improvised grills outside the concrete fortresses that house them -- and perhaps wash them down with a few beers, all the while keeping lookout for the bad guys.
I hope your backyard grill is located in a more serene setting, but you can see that this recipe assumes you will be in the safe confines of your kitchen. If you’d like, use some tin foil and easily adapt it to the grill.
French Beer-Braised Sausages
“Sauccissons à la Bière”
A sausage recipe from Alsace for sausages and onions simmered in beer. Makes 6 servings.
Pronounced: soh see so(n) / ah / lah / byehr
- 2 lbs. sausage, either one large sausage cut into 6 pieces or links 5-6 oz. each
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 cups thinly sliced onions
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- 12 oz. beer
- For garnish: minced parsley
- To serve: boiled potatoes, mustard
- To drink with the dinner: Frosty mugs of beer!
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions.
- Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and the beer and bring to a simmer.
- Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
- Nestle the sausages into the onion, cover, and cook about 15 more minutes or until the sausages are hot throughout.
Recipe Source: Debra F. Weber