Brick Mansions reminds me less of the French District 13, the film it is remaking, and more like an American remake of the Indonesian, martial arts hit The Raid: Redemption.

Brick Mansions is one of the dumbest mainstream action films to be released in quite sometime, so much so that it’s actually vaguely reminiscent of a film Michael Bay could’ve made. However, considering the film finds ways to be thoroughly amusing, has editing that works in its favor, has a cast that possesses solid talent, and ends when it should, definitely makes it a different breed than Bay’s filmmaking entirely.

Brick Mansions will undoubtedly be remembered as the last full-length film by late actor Paul Walker we’ll ever get to see, with The Fast and the Furious 7 remaining unfinished. While I’d recommend without even the slightest hesitation Walker’s underrated and unseen Hours, a film where he was actually showing promise as an actor with emotional leverage, over this film, Brick Mansions only reminds us what a force of charisma and charm Walker was as a screen presence. The film shows that he always made the best of the screenplay he was handed and had a lot of fun doing so; I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss the man even a moderate amount.

Brick Mansions
Directed by
Camille Delamarre
Cast
Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA
Release Date
25 April 2014
Steve’s Grade: C

Set in a dystopian Detroit, where crime has been segregated to abandoned brick mansions in a much harsher and socially/economically form barricaded by a large, concrete wall, Walker plays Damien Collier, an undercover cop fighting corruption and gang violence. Petty drug-dealer Lino (David Belle) lives in one of these brick mansions, desperately trying to fight to stay alive when violence lurks all around him. Against all odds, Damien and Lino team up to take down notorious drug lord Tremaine (RZA), whom always seems to be shown chopping up vegetables and cooking some sort of elegant cuisine within the confines of his dilapidated, brick containment, after he kidnaps Lino’s girlfriend and threatens the safety of those inside his residency as well as those outside still residing in the city of Detroit.

Brick Mansions includes one of the most ridiculous opening scenes I have yet to see in my day. It involves several drug lords marching through the confines of one of the mansions in efforts to seek out Lino. When they find him, despite being about ten guys to one drug dealer, Lino breaks down the door of his apartment and leaps along the walls and pipes of the hallways of his brick-layered containment, hitting and kicking all of the goons who want him caught dead or alive, and proceeds to leap all around the complex, successfully living through every physical implausibility known to mankind (and action movies, probably). The scene goes on for about four minutes. Maybe if I saw this scene about five years ago when I started reviewing films, I would’ve been highly-critical of these implausibilities and contrivances. Now, five years later, I’ve come to expect these sort of inane inclusions in films of the genre, but also hope they provide something stimulating in other fields if they so choose to bear action scenes with little rules.


However, I applaud Brick Mansions for being consistently implausible. I think the film’s writers (action movie guru Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen) are totally aware of these implausibilities and have decided to simply work with them, allowing solid editing and cinematography by Christophe Collette (and co-editor Arthur Tarnowski) to take prominence in this inane excursion. The result is a fun little romp, with goofy action scenes involving daredevil, life-threatening stunts performed by the likes of Walker and Belle that would likely have left their characters with the meanest back-aches, migraines, and groin-pulls a human could bear.

Seeing Brick Mansions with an audience helped in addition. The audience, like myself, was in the right mood to play along with the film and its asinine bouts with reality. The main characters and leading villains have invincibility superheros would envy but the side characters are incredibly vulnerable and victim to even the most outrageously implausible blow to the head or torso area. In one scene, Lino manages to use a guard-rail on a fire-escape as a tool to help swing down to a lower-level and bust the window to enter its hallway, reminiscent of a scene from Machete I’ve already mentioned in two reviews too many. Then there’s the fact that all these characters seem to possess sharp-shooter precision when shooting their guns unless it comes down to shooting one of the main character — then it’s as if they handed people who never held a gun before the weapon.

I hope you realize I enjoyed a great deal of this. In many ways, Brick Mansions reminds me less of the French District 13, the film it is remaking, and more like an American remake of the Indonesian, martial arts hit The Raid: Redemption, only much less impressive with its aesthetics. The environment, the themes, and the overall griminess to the location remind me much more of the latter than its intended remake (which, admittedly, I have not seen nor heard of until today). As stated, the film serves as a final, audible bang for Walker fans (who may wince at the scene when his character is driving a truck and exclaims something along the lines of “Steering is gone. And so are the brakes!”) and one of the most notable pieces of cheesy, action movie escapism in some time. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, but with my C letter grade comes a wink and a nudge. Take with it what you will.

Review by Lead Film Critic, Steve Pulaski