2014, PG-13, 90 mins.
2014, PG-13, 90 mins.
Paul Walker as Damien / David Belle as Lino / RZA as Tremaine / Robert Maillet as Yeti / Carlo Rota as George the Greek / Catalina Denis as Lola / Ayisha Issa as Rayzah /
Directed by Camille Delamarre / Written by Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri
BRICK MANSIONS is one of the most wasteful, wrongheaded, and utterly unnecessary remakes that I’ve ever seen, one that makes you wish that you could snap your fingers in front of the collective faces of its makers to see if they were all awake during the production.
one of the strangest remakes ever.
BRICK MANSIONS is based on the mostly fantastic 2006 Euro-action flick DISTRICT
B13, written by Luc Besson. Oddly, Besson adapts his
own script here…and it stars one of the main actors from the first film,
reprising his role…and it’s pretty much a narrative carbon copy of the
first. What it lacks, unlike
the far superior original, is a solid and tangible reason for existing.
More or less, BRICK MANSIONS is an excruciating endurance test more
than an enthralling and exciting action thriller, which is made all the
more shameful as it marks one of the very last films on the late Paul
what it’s worth, I greatly enjoyed DISTRICT B13 as a schlocky, but
fairly well oiled action thriller that introduced the movie world to the
splendid pleasures of parkour mixed with martial arts mayhem.
That film’s B-grade eccentricities were made all the more
digestible by just how much mileage it got out of seeing nimble and dexterous
stars David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli perform death-defying stunts that
would have made a Jackie Chan in his prime blush with envy.
DISTRICT B13 had a distinct flavor of originality to it when
released, but Besson in BRICK MANSIONS seems positively driven to
slavishly and lazily regurgitate the elements of his own 2006 film for a
more mass marketed friendly venture.
Alas, why not completely overhaul the first film and make this
remake something fresh and revitalizing?
As I exited the theater after screening BRICK MANSIONS I struggled with understanding the motives of spending millions
of dollars for such a sloppily executed, beat-for-beat remake.
I’m totally befuddled.
the most minor of details have been altered in this new version, and by
“minor” I’m referring to film’s geography.
In a semi-destopian 2018 Detroit (Paris in the original) crime has ran rampant throughout the
city, forcing it to build a militarized wall around its worst area, known
collectively as “Brick Mansions.” Some unscrupulous city planners want to level the area and
wipe the slate clean, so to speak, with the undesirables that reside
there, but a vile crime lord Tremaine (RZA) has recently acquired a
neutron bomb and will use it against any foe, inside or outside of Brick
Mansions. Realizing this new
threat, undercover detective Damien (Paul Walker, replacing Raffaelli) is
tasked to enter Brick Mansions and stop Tremaine, but along the way he
begrudgingly finds himself teamed up with a convict Lino (David Belle,
reprising his role) whom has his own motives for stopping Tremaine, like
the fact that he has kidnapped his wife.
Alas, the bomb has one of those obligatory red digital countdown
timers on it and is aimed at Detroit outside of Brick Mansions, so it’s
up to Damien and Lino to put their differences aside to save the day.
Now, to be fair,
I never went on record to describe DISTRICT B13 as an intelligent,
thinking-man’s sci-fi/action film.
No, it existed as a primal exhibition for Rafaelli and
Belle’s dynamic and eye-popping stunt work. Yet,
the director of that film, Pierre Morel - who went on to direct TAKEN
– precisely knew that the best way to showcase his two limitlessly
talented stars and their parkour dering-do was to frame the shots clearly
while editing everything together with a sense of spatial and geographical
clarity. All of this is
completely lost in BRICK MANSIONS, as director Camille Delamarre
(amazingly, an editor turned director) opts to shoot nearly all of the
action in frustrating close-ups, hazy and eye fatiguing cinematography,
spastic editing, and with virtually no sense of even modest lucidity.
At times, the sequences themselves are a complete and mediocre
visual blur, which makes appreciating the work of Belle and Walker all the
more difficult. If you want a
test, screen the first major action sequence of DISTRICT B13 and then the
nearly identically scripted one here and then ask yourself which version
is the superior one.
The differences are both noteworthy and appalling.
Aside from its
monumentally messy and choppy visual aesthetic, the performances in BRICK
MANSIONS are all DOA. Belle,
physically at least, still has not missed a step from his work in DISTRICT
B13, but his performance here – stilted by a beyond obvious English
language dub – is unendingly flat, which is not made anymore palatable
by the fact that his co-star Walker sleepwalks through his own
performance. That, and Walker
and Belle do not at all have the same sort of raw chemistry as an on-screen
team that Belle and Raffaelli had beforehand.
RZA is borderline incomprehensible at times as the film’s
antagonist and never really seems sure as to whether or not to play the
role as a one-note sadist or a calm and dialed-down sociopath.
Many of the other performers in the film, like Belle, appear to
have been dubbed as well, which makes for a really awkward transition
between them and actors that were not.
The final nail in this film’s coffin is that it has been marketed as the “final completed film” made by Walker, whom we all know died tragically last year at a dreadfully young age. BRICK MANSIONS even has an “In Loving Memory” tribute in the film’s final credits towards the star. Sadly and pathetically, Walker’s participation in the film was of the easy paycheck grabbing variety and certainly is not indicative of the good, solid film work that he did near the end of his life (see HOURS) that he most likely would have continued if he were still alive now. Regrettably, pondering that this is Walker’s swan song film is soul crushingly depressing, seeing as BRICK MANSIONS is kind of a failure as a remake and a failure as a movie altogether. In retrospect, the film is beyond pointless and without much artistic merit. Very few films have simultaneously made me feel angry and sad that they existed...but BRICK MANSIONS is one of them.