Film and TV

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Brick Mansions

Title: Brick Mansions

What Else Would Mansions Be Made Out Of? Straw? Sticks? As you can see, my experience with home construction began and ended with "The Three Little Pigs."

Rating Using Random Objects Related To The Film: Two mutant Moes out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Walled-off future ghetto is made safe for children again by two white dudes.

Tagline: "Undercover and never outgunned."

Better Tagline: "Might as well jump."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: In near-future Detroit, police and the military have constructed a 40-foot high wall around the rundown Brick Mansions neighborhood (in what must be viewed as a rather extreme response to spiking crime rates). The territory is now ruled by ruthless drug lord Tremaine Alexander (RZA), the only one in his way is Lino Dupree (David Belle), an acrobatic fellow who resents all the drug dealing going on. That is until Tremaine hijacks a truck carrying a neutron bomb, prompting the authorities to send in Damien Collier (Paul Walker), an undercover cop with a personal bone to pick with the kingpin.

"Critical" Analysis: The beginning of Brick Mansions is -- racial differences notwithstanding -- almost identical to District 13, the 2004 Luc Besson film upon which BM is based (Besson scripts this one as well). Indeed, the opening parkour sequence, in which Lino (Belle reprises his role in the original) escapes Tremaine's goons is so entertaining you can be forgiven for assuming a bigger budget and American distribution means you're in for something special.

C'est dommage for you then, because Brick Mansions contains little of the original movie's humor and none of the musclebound, bald French dudes District 13 promised us would be so plentiful in the dystopian future.

District 13 may have been a Gallic, marital arts infused ripoff of Escape from New York, but by setting the remake in the Motor City and having the evil powers-that-be scheming to create luxurious new properties on, dare I say, Old Detroit, you've also invoked the specter of RoboCop. And by casting Walker in place of someone who actually knows how to fight (B13's Damien, Cyril Raffaelli, has like 50 black belts in shotokan karate), Besson and company end up delivering a fairly standard actioner, with car chases disappointingly taking the place of righteous kung fu fighting.

And Brick Mansions really needs some distraction, preferably of the ultraviolent variety, because it isn't going to get by on the cast's acting chops. Belle, sporting a few more tats and more gray hair this time around, is the most likable, but RZA is middling at best (the Wu-Tang leader does drop a "Cash rules everything around me," so props for that), and one of the movie's only females -- Lino's ex-girlfriend Lola -- exists solely to serve as bait and get sexually threatened by the other female, Tremaine's henchling Rayzah (Ayisha Issa). Because that's totally hot, y'all.

And then there's Walker, appearing in what will likely be his final non-sibling enhanced role. He is, as he always was, serviceable without looking like he's doing much. Yes, it's a shame he died. Walker was, by all accounts, a loving father and a decent human being, and his death was stupidly preventable. That said, we can stop pretending we lost the next Brando.

Minus the exhilarating Gymkata-ness of the original and with the clumsiness of the plot involving Le Bombe Neutron (how very French), there's not much to see here. That is, unless you've missed seeing movie cops throw their badge away at the end of films, or you're interested in cinematic uprisings that make The Running Man look like The Battle of Algiers.

Brick Mansions is in theaters today. Please, don't try this stuff at home.