Now, I probably should explain that my rule for this blog is to review EVERY film I see at the CINEMA! So, why did I go to see this ridiculous excuse for a film at the picture house? Well, mainly because I am an addict and I was getting cold turkey because I hadn’t been to the cinema in a while (10 days) and needed a fix. But rather than getting the good gear I ended up with a pale shadow of a hit from D-movie BRICK MANSIONS.
It’s my own fault I was tired and chose something that wouldn’t test my intelligence too much. And while it’s a well-edited, pacy film with some okay plot twists throughout there is no way I could recommend this to anyone with one-tenth of a brain and still retain the incredible respect my fans have for me.
It’s a remake of an earlier Luc Besson written/produced movie called District 13 (2004); the kind of unpretentious, slickly crafted and brainless film Besson’s production arm has been churning out with regular abandon for years. Arguably the best of these are The Transporter and Taken series which rely on the ample talents of Jason Statham and Liam Neeson to propel the action and narratives. Paul Walker, alas, is no Statham as he doesn’t have the former diver’s brutish personality or scrapping skills and neither does he have Neeson’s actorial stature, style or power for smashing up generic bad guys.
Ultimately Paul Walker is such a generic an actor the best way to describe him would be like that of a poor man’s Paul Walker. My favourite film of his was a fun Tarantino knock-off called Running Scared (2006). I urge you to see Running Scared as it is a brilliant twisty-turny, explosive GTA-esque little thriller also starring under-rated Vera Farmiga. Of course, Walker’s star shines well in the American movie version of Top Gear; the cash-making-franchise-behemoth-Fast-and-Furious series.
Having said that Walker is/was very likeable, good looking and while lacking in personality his bright blue-eyes carry Brick Mansions along at but overall fail to mask the execrable direction, embarrassing dialogue over-dubs and dreadful acting of his co-stars, notably the RZA who is so wooden his next role should be <insert wooden furniture based pun/analogy here>. The film does have a plot which is pretty much lifted from Escape From New York (1981). But it’s nowhere nearly as good as the Carpenter classic although it does feature some fine parkouring skills from master of the physical art David Belle;here playing a nippy career criminal at odds with the RZA’s ridiculous mob boss. These various characters fight, jump over, run, get handcuffed and strap bombs to each other in the deprived, urine-soaked hell-hole called Brick Mansions; a segregated part of Detroit which homes just criminals and lower-runged members of American society. There’s a piss-poor attempt at social commentary and critique of corrupt officials and politicians but basically it’s laughable.
Walker plays another in a long line of maverick cops but what lets this film down is he has no code or specific set of skills (like Statham/Neeson) or even characterisation and it’s left to the parkour-man Belle to give the action some oomph. I mean it’s entertaining enough, has some crunching violence and fun fight scenes but I was laughing unintentionally at times especially when the RZA was trying to play the tough guy. The film’s biggest crime is it has no suspense or defined look and the whole thing had all the visual flair of a daytime soap opera. It would have benefited (like Escape From New York) from some stylish noir night scenes but alas there are little or none
As epitaphs go to the sadly departed Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, is a desperately poor excuse for a movie. Thankfully the James Wan-helmed Fast and Furious 7 will somehow repair Walker’s mixed-bag of a CV. Which probably tells you how bad Brick Mansions is.