Directed by Camille Delamarre, Starring Paul Walker, David Belle, and RZA
I know everyone remembers that this was a thing once. “Brick Mansions” is an American remake of the French film “District B13”, this being directed by the cinematographer of the original. It made $20M at the domestic box office, and to be cynical but realistic, basically all of that money is the result of “Brick Mansions” being the first Paul Walker movie released after Walker’s death in late 2013. Paul Walker was never the best actor, but he comes off as a cool guy to be around and does great stunt work in action movie. “Brick Mansions” is the ideal Paul Walker movie. It is not well made as a piece of art, but it is decent fun and the action is impressive.
The original “District B13” is notable for popularizing parkour, in which people jump over, through, and between anything and everything. It looks really great in this movie. I will admit that the action scenes are over-edited between the slow motion and excessive number of cuts, but what is on the screen is brilliant and takes true talent to do. The physical fights are also very well coordinated and performed. There is a lot of gun play, but when it gets down to men punching each other, the result is a joy to witness more often than not. Most of the credit has to go to the two leading men, Walker and French actor David Belle. These men are everything that you could possibly ask for in an action star: physically gifted, well trained, occasionally funny, and they have fantastic chemistry with each other. The film works the way it does because Walker and Bell will it to. I could watch these guys jump off of trucks and over men seven feet tall to punch each other all day. Third credit RZA is not nearly as entertaining as the other two men on the poster. I love the man as an artist, and he is one of my favorite Wu-Tang Clan members. He is a poor actor, and there is no way around it.
The writing is more of a struggle to sit through. The basic idea for a plot could work. Brick Mansions are a low income housing project in Detroit, set off from the rest of the city. Walker, a cop, and Belle, a former criminal, must team up to stop Tremaine Alexander, a drug dealer played by RZA who is in possession of a bomb that he intends to launch at the city. There are a lot of twists along the way, and most of them make no sense in the context of what has already been stated. I like the idea of the main plot turn near the end, but I cannot understand the motivations behind it. The ending is also very bad, in the sense that it is a film that does not conclude. Walker and Belle go up to the mayor’s office, have a conversation with political officials, and then a newscast tells the audience of the aftermath. If you’re making a ridiculous and dumb action film, which “Brick Mansions” definitely is, the you need to embrace that genre. Solving the plot with badly written and badly acted diplomatic relations is not fun. It defeats the purpose of being such a stupid movie.
There are also many minor gripes to be had. Tremaine’s henchman are consistently awful actors. I think that they are all paid SAG people, but they look like extras. Far too often a background henchman is overacting and mugging for screen time. The sound work is not very good. Many stock sound effects are used, some of which are clearly meant to be a joke but some of them seem genuine. For more than half of his dialogue, Belle was very obviously dubbed over in post. The treatment of women is painful. There are 2 female characters, Belle’s girlfriend and a henchwoman. Both are dressed in “sexy” clothing, with the bad girl wearing leather and fishnets and the girlfriend wearing essentially nothing at all. Their inevitable catfight is not only dull but also exploitative.
But I really do think that the action and the two leads are enough to push this to a positive rating. It is difficult to endorse a film that I am consciously aware is not very well made, but it’s a dumb action movie like Walker’s Furious series, and it is even more fun to watch than most of those. “Brick Mansions” is worth renting if you’re interested or just in the mood for an entertaining fighting or parkour movie.