Friday, March 27, 2015

"Brick Mansions" (2014)

Starring Paul Walker, David Belle and RZA
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by Camille Delamarre
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language, drugs
Running Time: 90 Minutes

In the near future, the city of Detroit has become so dangerous that the government declares martial law and cordons off a section of the city, giving it up to the criminal element that has taken over a huge section of housing projects known as the Brick Mansions. Inside is a war zone ruled by criminals, gangs, drug cartels and weapons dealers, while the rest of the city is allowed to prosper.

Undercover cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker) is sent into brick mansions to recover a dangerous neutron bomb that the mayor (Bruce Ramsay) tells him was stolen from a military convoy. To aid him, Collier arranges the escape of a prisoner named Lino (David Belle) who knows his way around the brick mansions like the back of his hand. Together, they have to infiltrate the criminal organization led by Tremaine Alexander (RZA), who has taken control of the bomb and kidnapped Lino's girlfriend Lola (Catalina Denis).

But even with millions of lives hanging in the balance, this is more personal for Damien: Tremaine is the man who killed his father years earlier.

"Brick Mansions," for better or worse, is the late Paul Walker's last completed film. Fortunately for everyone, it won't be his last film appearance — thanks to Universal's commitment of time and millions of extra dollars, Walker's final outing in the "Fast & Furious" franchise, "Furious 7," will be hitting theatres a week after this post.

But while "Furious 7" will probably be a more fitting final appearance for Walker, given his relationship with that franchise, "Brick Mansions" isn't much of a note to go out on. I was impressed with Walker's other posthumous release, "Hours" but I can't really say the same about "Brick Mansions."

As a remake of the 2004 French action film, "District 13," it doesn't really have much to offer over that version other than its native language being English. It even recycles lead actor David Belle from that film. Thankfully, Belle's skill at Parkour hasn't faded in the decade between productions, as it's one of the few highlights of this version of the film.

Paul Walker, for his part, is basically playing his Brian O'Conner character from "Fast & Furious." He gets to drive recklessly several times, and even the costuming is similar; I'd have no problem with his Damien Collier character getting home and finding Jordana Brewster waiting for him. It doesn't do much for "Brick Mansions" itself, but it does mean that, as usual, Walker is having a good time and that makes him eminently watchable. He has good chemistry with Belle, even though the two of them are obviously trying to overcome the limp banter the script saddles them with.

The action sequences are worth mentioning, but they also don't save "Brick Mansions." Director Camille Delamarre mostly gets things right, but occasionally throws in an awkward slow-motion shot at the exact wrong moment. Belle gets a few opportunities to show off his Parkour, fewer as the film goes on, but when he does, it's usually pretty spectacular. Nothing quite on the level of what he accomplishes in the French version, though. When even that aspect of this version feels toned down, that's problematic.

At a bare 90 minutes, there isn't much to "Brick Mansions" in general. It's decent enough to have on in the background, but nothing really worth paying much attention to. The action sequences are interesting, but they can't help "Brick Mansions" rise up over its other faults.

See Also
"District 13: Ultimatum"
"The Fast and the Furious"

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