'Brick Mansions' disappoints
Although I was a huge Paul Walker fan, I can't say that I have seen every one of his movies or that I would have rushed to see "Brick Mansions" its opening weekend if it was not his last fully completed film. Most of his scenes were filmed for "Fast 7" prior to his death and it will definitely be remembered as his final film. I thought about this during "Brick Mansions" and found myself a little relieved that this solely adequate action thriller would be a sad ending note for the underrated actor.
"Brick Mansions" is set in a dystopian Detroit. A housing project, "The Brick Mansions," has become overrun with crime, drugs and poverty that the government has shut down its schools, police stations, hospitals and all other public services and sealed it off. This of course leads to martial law and even poorer conditions in the projects. A slum lord named Tremaine (RZA) rules over "The Brick Mansions" with an iron fist. Tremaine wants to kill Lino (David Belle), a French resident within the housing project, who aside from performing parkour stunts and action sequences, steals Tremaine's drug packages to destroy them and prevent him from distributing more drugs in the slums. Meanwhile, Tremaine steals a government bomb and accidentally arms it, turning the entire area into a ticking time bomb. Undercover cop Damien (Walker) is sent into the projects and teams up with Lino to stop the bomb and clean up the slums. It sounds complicated and there are even more details, but the truth is the entire plot only exists to fuel action sequences.
I have been told "Brick Mansions" is essentially a French version of "The Raid: Redemption." It is a movie that is really only a showcase for parkour martial arts sequences the way that "The Raid: Redemption" was a showcase for brutal martial arts violence. The same is essentially true in this remake, but it just isn't done well. My first problem with the film was its extremely sloppy and lousy editing. Usually this is something that goes unnoticed, but throughout the entire film, single shots and scenes are spliced together so poorly that at times I found myself wondering if the projector was skipping around the film.
Secondly, the film does not embrace its nature as a parkour showcase. Rather than deliver a hard R-rating action film filled with intense sequences, its PG-13 rating instantly forces every scene to be incredibly tame. The film also tries to tell a story and deliver some substance outside of the action. This isn't a bad thing, but it's so poorly written and strung together that it just doesn't work. There is very little development in the plot or its characters. Everything feels rushed and fast paced and it all happens before we can even acknowledge it. Lastly, the real problem is its final 15 minutes. This film is so dark and bleak, only to suddenly sell out and gives us this fake, happy ending, which of course concludes with the feel-good song "The Man" by Aloe Blacc. I won't spoil it, but the ending seem extremely implausible and unrealistic. It completely contradicts the little development we've seen about this world and its characters. It should have just been a hard-R martial arts showcase with a simple ending. There is potential for that in this film, but not much else.
Despite its many flaws, I found myself generally enjoying the film. Most of that is due to the chemistry between Walker and Belle. The two give good leading performances and although they work well together, their chemistry suffers from what every single problem comes from. The director does not seem capable of utilizing the cast and its chemistry, capturing action sequences at their best potential or really making a good movie. It's a guilty pleasure film , and I hate to say it, but it may have even been released straight to DVD if Walker had not died. All in all, the action is decent enough and the film will entertain, but don't expect a truly spectacular film.
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