Neither Walker’s smile nor Belle’s crazy stunts can save ‘Brick Mansions’ from collapsing in on itself.
We should get this out of the way: Brick Mansions is not Paul Walker’s final film. The charismatic 40 year old actor, who died in a car crash on November 30th, 2013, completed a portion of the filming of Fast & Furious 7. The seventh installment of the lucrative franchise will serve as a much better sendoff than Brick Mansions. Brick Mansions has its moments, and Paul Walker supplies his trademark icy blue eyes and sly humor, but the film suffers from a shallow plot, laughable dialogue, and dizzying quick cuts that spoil some marvelous stunt work.
Brick Mansions is a remake of the french film, District B13, which also starred Parkour co-founder David Belle. The story of both films revolves around an undercover cop, Damien Collier (Paul Walker), who teams up with a convicted criminal, Lino Dupree (David Belle), to infiltrate a walled-in impoverished area of a dystopian Detroit. Their mission is to track down a drug kingpin, Tremaine Alexander (RZA), who rules over the segregated neighborhood made up of a nest of dilapidated buildings called ‘Brick Mansions’. The premise can be easily identified as a commentary on class warfare and socioeconomics, but that’s not the point of the film.
As one of the co-founders of Parkour, David Belle’s extraordinary talent is on full display. Unfortunately, frantic camera movements and quick cuts ruin the spectacle, instead cramming fight scenes with tight close-ups and indistinguishable body blows. While watching each fight and chase, you’ll yearn for the long shots and wide angles that made the opening chase sequence of Casino Royale (2006) so exciting and impressive — and that sequence featured freerunner and Parkour influencer Sébastien Foucan. Judging by the overtly simplistic and distractingly PG-13 dialogue written by Bibi Naceri and Luc Besson, much of which is poorly dubbed over, the bulk of the production effort seems to have went toward the stunt choreography. It’s therefore sad to see the effort go to waste since it’s not even shown in full.
Paul Walker, lucky for us, manages to keep the audience involved. With his chill demeanor and million dollar smile, Walker nails the role of the ambitious and cool young cop as he has many times before. He’s always been fun to watch, even despite his inability to stretch his characters’ emotional depth beyond what the moment calls for. He capitalizes on the few comedic beats that Brick Mansions offers, and carries himself well throughout the action sequences that we can tell feature a stunt double. It’s just a shame that the movie didn’t feature even more of Walker, rather than spending extra minutes with Tremaine and his unexciting threats, or Lino and his very thin backstory. Brick Mansions ends with an “In Loving Memory” credit to Walker, and I admit with a heavy heart that it’s somewhat fitting since he is, by far, the most memorable part of this film.
Brick Mansions opens in theaters on April 25th, 2014.