Review: Brick Mansions
PLOT: In the near future, a Detroit cop looking for vengeance teams with a felon on the run to take down a powerful crime lord. The unlikely duo finds themselves in deep against a ton of bad guys with guns and devious politicians with plans to take down an entire city.
REVIEW: Thanks to the FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise and the underrated gem RUNNING SCARED, Paul Walker proved to be a charismatic action star. In his latest feature BRICK MANSIONS, he shares the screen with French action phenomena David Belle who is also one of the founders of Parkour – a holistic training discipline using your body however you can to get from point A to B, which is a style of action used heavily in the film. The action-packed feature, which is a semi-remake of the well-received French film DISTRICT 13 (also starring Belle), is set in a not so distant futuristic Detroit in a housing project that has been gated off from the its surrounding area.
Walker plays Damien Collier, a narcotics officer who is looking to take down the man who was responsible for his father’s death. The man in question is Tremaine Alexander (RZA) a powerful drug lord who controls the projects. Also looking to destroy Tremaine is another resident of the crime ridden area, a wrongfully accused criminal by the name of Lino Dupree (Belle) who is looking to get rid of the drug problem that runs rampant. Add to this a would-be mustache twirling – if only he had a mustache - Mayor (Bruce Ramsay) who doesn’t have the best of intentions for the denizens of this unwanted location. And just to give the ticking time bomb effect, the filmmakers throw in a literal ticking time bomb to energize this gonzo flick.
From the opening sequence where David Belle is getting rid of some very expensive merchandise, stolen from Tremaine’s henchman K2 (Gouchy Boy), this flick moves. When this misfit crew of killers closes in on Lino, he is on the run, walking on walls and putting the art of Parkour to good use. This is an exciting bit and, quite frankly, it was a fun and creative way to see his narrow escape. Belle is a natural at this as he dodges bullets, fists, and all sorts of things flying at him. It’s an incredibly rambunctious start that never lets up for the most part in this 89 minute feature. When Collier shows up, he is dead set on getting Tremaine and not surprisingly ends up partnered with Lino – who was arrested for killing a dirty cop.
BRICK MANSIONS is heavy on hyper-stylized PG-13 violence which unfortunately tends to dilute the finished product. Some of the most glorious kills are off-camera, and there is nary a single drop of blood or gore in the entire thing. Considering the amount of violence, the film opts for a cartoon effect with bodies flying all over and random extras and stuntmen being consistently maimed. Thankfully for our heroes, the bad guys have the worst aim in history and couldn’t hit a target if it were right in front of them. The slow motion and the on-screen gymnastics are entertaining even if it feels at times as if you are watching the edited version.
The power duo of Walker and Belle works especially well, which is impressive considering this is Belle’s first English language feature film. Both actors are well versed in the art of choreographed fighting, especially Belle who brings intense energy to his performance. As for RZA, he may not be a great thespian, yet he is clearly delighting in the idea of being a badass crime boss who will shoot you while making dinner. The three actors are well aware of the type of film they are making and offer just enough charisma to make it work, no matter how preposterous it all may be.
BRICK MANSIONS is cliché-ridden and silly, as well as blatantly heavy-handed when it comes to offering a message to viewers about how the rich eat the poor. The script by Luc Besson is ludicrous and director Camille Delamarre displays it proudly. If only they had taken a few more chances and bloodied things up a bit it would have been far more thrilling, yet they took the safe route to appeal to a mass audience. Clearly, they are hoping to please fans of Paul Walker, who are still mourning the tragic loss of the actor and aren’t looking for an overtly brutal flick. It may not be high art, but it has no intentions of being anything more than a kinetic and goofy hour-and-a-half of entertainment.
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