Detroit in the near future – there’s a bomb and some dudes have to find it. PARKOUR!
Brick Mansions is a remake of the 2004 French film District 13 and the really short version of this review is basically that you should go watch the original. It’s superior in every conceivable way.
District 13 was a film built to let the audience marvel at parkour ridiculousness. The founder of the sport David Belle plays one of the main roles and was instrumental in coming up with the choreography, especially evident in the opening chase sequence which is simply some of the most inventive action cinema ever filmed.
10 years later, Belle is back (and looking a little swarthier at 41 years of age) and that opening scene unfolds in very much the same way. But with one important difference – editing. The original was all about showing off the skills of its performers, with long takes and wide angles. For Brick Mansions, every shot is trimmed and spliced, with multiple cameras and excessive slow motion.
It’s a move that utterly defeats the purpose of parkour sequences and the central casting of a gifted athlete. And things don’t improve from there, with a dull story that nosedives into far too much talking and a bloodless aesthetic which makes the film suitable teens for some reason.
This was the last film Paul Walker completed before his untimely death in late 2013 and it’s sad reminder that he was capable of some real screen presence outside of the Fast and Furious pictures. He’s physically capable here and even manages some token humour but being cast as the joker of the duo really doesn’t play to his strengths.
Belle shows up with a strange-sounding American accent and pounces off walls a lot. The action remains somewhat interesting in that its so defensive, mostly it’s a fancy way of looking away rather than actual fighting. But there’s so little done with the form that it quickly becomes boring.
Then there are pointless car chases just because of Fast and Furious, awkward political machinations, ultra sleazy female characters, terrible dialogue and RZA cooking a lot for some reason. There’s just too much naffness to enjoy the occasionally slick action, especially when there’s a better version available on DVD right now.
I say again, watch District 13 instead.