I have never actually seen District 13, the film which Brick Mansions is remaking. Its right near the top of the list of potential movies to watch for this marathon and my plan was to watch it before ever seeing this one. However I decided that seeing District 13 could do nothing but hurt my enjoyment of Brick Mansions, so I went into this one fresh with no notion of the standards it should be living up to. Even then I can’t say I walked away too impressed, though it’s still not the train wreck many are saying.
The titular brick mansions is a section of Detroit that has been completely walled off due to insane crime rates. I think. You know they don’t really get into the back story all that much. All we know is brick mansions = fucked up, probably don’t go in there. Damien (Paul Walker) is being sent into brick mansions in order to retrieve a bomb that has been stolen by kingpin Tremaine (RZA). He’s teamed up with Lino (David Belle, from the original movie and also apparently dubbed here for reasons unknown), a brick mansions resident who has been working to clean up the area and also is very adept at doing sweet flips and running off walls (the kids call this “parkour”). Both of them also have a personal stake in the situation as Damien believes Tremaine killed his father, and Tremaine has also kidnapped Lino’s girlfriend. Will these two learn to get past their differences and work together for the greater good? ….Yes. Yes they will. Quite quickly in fact.
To begin with, for a movie that plays up an emphasis on parkour, there isn’t nearly as much of it as I expected. The opening scene features the majority of it, with the focus being put on Belle and his escape from a group of henchmen. He kicks off walls, flips down off fire escapes, jumps out windows, and does all matter of impressive parkour feats. It’s a good scene that’s taken down a few notches by the choppy editing. There’s no flow to the sequence. You never get to see Belle string several moves together in one shot, a feat I’m sure that he’s more than capable of doing. Instead he’ll do a move, then it will cut, then he will do another move and it will cut, and so on. It all feels very disjointed and you just wish you could watch the man do his stuff without all these interruptions.
The opening scene is definitely the highlight but the movie certainly never lets up, with only a few scenes devoted to exposition and the rest devoted to fist fights, gun fights and car chases. It’s all adequately entertaining but again, the choppy editing does prove to be a pretty consistent problem. It’s especially noticeable coming off two movies that did a terrific job of showing the action. It’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen, but it’s unfortunate.
One thing I did enjoy is how Damien and Lino became terrific at synchronizing their awesome flips almost immediately. There’s absolutely no mention that Damien has any parkour/awesome flipping skills and yet they are still both able to flip over cars and people in perfect synchronicity. It’s pretty goofy but never underestimate the greatness of two guys doing gravity defying flips to avoid a car they probably could have jumped away from.
Obviously you can’t talk about this movie without discussing Paul Walker as I’m quite sure this is his final movie where he fully completed filming. I’m definitely a Walker fan. I know most people go to the Fast and Furious franchise but I’ve always been a Joy Ride and Running Scared man myself. Also Eight Below, though that may be less due to Walker and more due to those heroic damn dogs. Seriously though, if you haven’t seen at least Running Scared you should get on that immediately. The level of intensity Walker has to maintain from beginning to end is nothing short of astounding. All he does is yell and spit and swear for like 2 hours and it’s just…it’s just great. Great great stuff. Unfortunately Brick Mansions isn’t the best note for him to go on out. He’s fine in it, it’s just not much of a character really so he doesn’t have a whole lot to work with.
Outside of Walker, Belle looks good doing the action but it’s very odd that they dubbed his voice and it’s very distracting. Or if his voice actually isn’t dubbed, the man is definitely part robot. RZA does what he can with a pretty generic villain, though some his henchmen are pretty interesting. I especially liked the huge guy you’ve probably seen them fighting in the trailer. All he does is grunt and yell nonsense, at one point he just stands in the background frantically grinning his teeth and just making insane noises. That dude was pretty awesome, not nearly enough of that dude in the movie.
The story is for the most part quite generic. Two people are forced to team up, they hate each other, then they respect each other, you know the drill. Walker and Belle are at least good together and the scenes with the two of them are the highlight. The story does take a few twists in the third act however they aren’t at all surprisingly as there is a largely unnecessary scene at the start of the movie that completely telegraphs what is going to happen. Also a couple of the characters do things that in retrospect didn’t really make a whole lot of sense so the general ending left me a little confused.
I went in with pretty low expectations but all in all, Brick Mansions is a decent watch. It’s never boring but there isn’t a whole lot here that is particularly engaging outside of some impressive stunt work and a few fun action beats. It’s not the best sign off for Walker but it’s certainly not the worst. It just sort of….is.