In 2010, social problems have overrun the poorer suburbs of Paris; especially Banlieue 13, commonly referred to as B13: a ghetto with a population of some two million. Unable to control B13, the authorities construct a high wall topped by barbed tape around the entire area, forcing the inhabitants within to survive without education, proper utilities or police protection behind the containment wall. Police checkpoints stop anybody going in or out. Three years later, the district has become overrun with gangs. Leïto (David Belle) is a fighter of such gangs. The beginning of the film depicts Leïto washing a case full of drugs down the drain, then escaping the gang who has come to collect the drugs. The gang's leader, Taha, kidnaps Leïto's sister Lola in retaliation; Leïto is able to rescue her and take Taha to the police station, but the police arrest Leïto and let Taha leave with Lola, stating that they're leaving the district.
Six months later, in Paris, Damien Tomaso — an undercover cop, completes a successful operation at a casino, and is immediately given a new assignment: Taha's gang has taken a bomb from a nuclear transport vehicle and accidentally activated it, giving it 24 hours before it wipes out the district. Damien, posing as a prisoner, must infiltrate the district and disarm the bomb; he teams up with Leïto to do so. Leïto immediately sees through Damien's cover, but the two reluctantly team up to save Leïto's sister as well. The pair surrenders to Taha in order to gain access to his base, where they find the bomb has been set up on a missile launcher aimed at Paris, with Lola handcuffed to it. Taha demands a high ransom to deactivate the bomb; the government refuses, but after Damien gives them Taha's bank account codes, they drain his funds. Leïto and Damien escape, while Taha is killed by his own men when they realize he will be unable to pay them. The much more benevolent K2 takes over and allows Leïto and Damien to stop the bomb.
After fighting their way to the building, Damien calls his contact to receive the deactivation code, but after recognizing certain symbols in the code, Leïto deduces that the government has set them up and the code will actually detonate the bomb instead of deactivating it. After Leïto and Damien fight, Lola is able to restrain Damien long enough for the timer on the bomb to run out. The bomb does not explode, proving Leïto right. The pair return to the government building with the bomb and use it to force the government agent to admit that he had planned to blow up B13 as a means to get rid of it, catching it on camera and broadcasting it on national TV. Soon the rest of the government promises to tear down the containment wall and bring back schools and police to B13. Leïto and Damien depart as friends, and Lola kisses Damien to encourage him to visit B13 in the future.David Belle as Leïto
Cyril Raffaelli as Damien Tomaso
Tony D'Amario as K2
Dany Verissimo as Lola
Bibi Naceri as Taha
François Chattot as Krüger
Nicolas Woirion as Corsini
Patrick Olivier as The Colonel
Samir Guesmi as Jamel
Jeff Rudom as Yeti
District 13 received mostly positive reviews outside France. It holds a rating of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 110 reviews. In France however, the film received mostly negative reviews from both spectators and press, holding on Allociné, a French cinema website, a 2.8 out of 5, based on four press critics. The main issues pointed by the French critics were the similarity with both Escape from New York and Ong Bak, and the shallowness of the plot. Lisa Nesselson of Variety called it "fast, dumb fun".
Filming of a sequel, originally titled "Banlieue 14", began in August 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia, and continued until October 2008. David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli both reprised their original roles of Leito and Damien, respectively. The film with Luc Besson again producing and writing the screenplay. The title for the sequel was officially changed to District 13: Ultimatum in the post-production stages. It was released in France on February 18, 2009, and the United Kingdom on October 2, 2009.
An English-language remake of the film, set in Detroit, was titled Brick Mansions, began pre-production in 2010 by EuropaCorp. It was released in April 2014, and stars Paul Walker as Damien, with David Belle reprising his role from the original and rapper RZA as the gang leader. Brick Mansions is also the last movie that Walker finished before his death in November 2013.