***1/2 (out of 5)
April 25, 2014
Paul Walker as DAMIEN
David Belle as LINO
RZA as TREMAINE
Gouchy Boy as K2
Catalina Denis as LOLA
Ayisha Issa as RAYZAH
Directed by: Camille Delamarre
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Sometimes the best thing you can do with a remake is to watch it without prior knowledge of the original film. Of course, that’s not always possible, especially for a film critic like myself who sees probably 95 percent or more of the wide releases in theaters. However, when the original film is a foreign property, that does become possible.
While I had heard of “District 13” before and was aware it was famous for its use of parkour (as well as its casting of parkour founder David Belle), I had never seen it. So when I saw “Brick Mansions,” I came at it with a completely fresh eye. Knowing several colleagues who were huge fans of “District 13” and not fans of “Brick Mansions,” this was probably a good thing.
(That’s not to say “Brick Mansion” wasn’t a decent adaptation. Personally, after watching “District 13” on Netflix, I thought it was a fine English language version of the film, even if there are key plot elements that were change.)
“Brick Mansions” is a bigger movie with more stunts and explosions. It also stars Paul Walker in one of his final film roles before he was killed in a car crash this past Thanksgiving. This results in David Belle’s character (whom he reprises from ten years ago) get the secondary treatment. Such is the life of a French movie star playing second fiddle to an American movie star in an American film.
The film takes place in the not-too-distant future where Detroit has built a wall around the worst area of the city. Inside these walls, known as Brick Mansions, crime runs rampant and the government does not exist. Walker plays an undercover cop who must infiltrate this area to stop a neutron bomb from going off. In order to navigate this war zone, he enlists the help of a vigilante from Brick Mansions (Belle) who is also trying to save his girlfriend from an evil drug lord (RZA).
Let’s not mince words: the story is dumb. It’s painfully dumb… seriously dumb. And this is not all just a result of changes made from the French to American version of the film. There’s parts of the original story that make no sense whatsoever. The dumbness is magnified with some of the changes made to the script, but if you think too much about the story, it dissolves away like a wad of cotton candy in a rain storm.
But you don’t see a movie like this because of its smart script. A movie like this is made for the action and punchiness of the delivery. And “Brick Mansions” has plenty of this. The use of parkour is cool to watch through the rooftop chase scenes, and there are added moments with car chases, explosions and some pretty crazy gun play.
Though done in a bigger way with a more substantial budget, “Brick Mansions” features many of the same moves we saw in “District 13.” It’s a thrilling ride with some of the best fight and stunt choreography I’ve seen outside of a martial arts movie.
Sure, there are some really terrible moments in the movie, many of which come at the hand of RZA’s awful acting abilities. (Does this guy even do music any more? Or does he just show up in action movies now?) Also, the ending of the film is one of the corniest, schmalziest, nonsensical things you’ll likely see this year.
But then again, as I said before, you don’t see this movie for internal logic and acting. You see this movie for the thrilling stunt ride, and it’s a blast in that respect.