May 4, 2014

Movie Review: Brick Mansions

It was maybe a month ago, maybe two, that I was sitting in a theater getting ready to watch some mover or other when I first saw the trailer for Brick Mansions. The first thing I noticed was Paul Walker, this is the last film he completed before his untimely death. The second thing that I noticed was just how familiar the whole thing seemed... Walled off ghetto, a ruthless crime boss, a pairing of cop and criminal, and a bomb. Oh yes, there was the whole parkour thing as well. Then the credit block came up at the end and everything clicked.

I saw Brick Mansions was produced by Luc Besson and that he was involved with the writing of the screenplay. Plus there was the presence of David Belle. There is only one thing this Brick Mansions thing could be. It is a remake of the French action film Banlieu 13 (released in the US as District B13, not to be confused with District 9). The original film was released in 2004 and was one of the biggest ways that parkour was introduced to the world. It was a fun action flick with some blatant social commentary. It was not a movie I was expecting to see get the remake treatment, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

The movie is set in Brick Mansions, a walled off ghetto in Detroit. It is a no-go zone for police and is ruled by a drug lord named Tremaine (RZA). The people living there are forgotten remnants that the government has written off. Inside of Brick Mansions is Leno (David Belle), a man trying to fight the good fight and is on Tremaine's bad side after flushing a large supply of cocaine. Meanwhile, the Detroit Mayor is trying to get a plan going to turn Brick Mansions into high class housing and such. Then there is Det. Collier (Walker), a man trying to bring Tremaine down as revenge for the death of his father.

All of these threads come together as Leno and Collier are forced to team up, infiltrate Brick Mansions, and take down Tremaine. There is also an added bonus, Tremaine has a neutron bomb that is set to go off, unless Collier can shut it down. The whole thing is quite ludicrous, but still pretty entertaining.

Brick Mansions wants to do two things. First, it wants to be a big, over the top action film and parkour showcase. Second, it wants to make a statement about the treatment of the poor, how they are marginalized, pushed aside, and thought of negatively, when there are lots of good people trying to make things better but unable to. I guess you could say it is successful. It is not a subtle movie and is ultimately more likely to be remembered as Paul Walker's last completed film than anything else.

Still, one should not be so quick to right it off. No, it is not a great movie, it does not improve on the original, but it does entertain, have some fun action sequences, and is just some silly fun. There is nothing wrong with a movie like this. It is no classic, but it entertains and sometimes that is all that we really need. Plus, we can hear what David Belle would sound like if he were dubbed by Vin Diesel (yes, this is true).

Mildly Recommended.

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