With Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA, Gouchy Boy, Ayisha Issa. Directed by Camille Delamarre. Written by Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri. Rated PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material. 90 minutes.
With the summer movie season now kicking off in May, the last weekend in April is not a time to release a major blockbuster, though a disposable action film like BRICK MANSIONS fits the bill. It’s a remake of the 2004 French film “District B13” which introduced many American action fans to parkour. That’s a type of street fighting/martial art which seems to defy gravity as walls, ceilings, exposed pipes, and almost any surface can be used as a means of movement or attack.
The movie essentially tells the same story: in the near-future, the worst section of the city (Paris in the original, Detroit here) is sealed off by a wall. Inside the walled district, the drug lord Tremaine (RZA) reigns supreme, dealing out death as smoothly as he chops up vegetables in his kitchen. Doing what he can to disrupt things is Lino (David Belle playing the same part he did in the original), who has just stolen and destroyed 20 kilos of Tremaine’s drugs. To regain control of the situation, Tremaine orders the kidnapping of Lola (Catalina Denis), Lino’s ex-girlfriend.
Now what passes for the plot gets complicated. Tremaine’s henchman K2 (Gouchy Boy) has stolen an army truck containing a neutron bomb. Undercover cop Damien (the late Paul Walker) is sent in with Lino to defuse the device, which Tremaine is using to threaten downtown Detroit. If all this is too complicated, you simply have to root for Damien and Lino and Lola against Tremaine and his gang. Lola even gets her own nemesis in Rayzah (Ayisha Issa), who has a sadistic streak in her.
The plot is simplistic and the characters are cartoonish, so what’s the point of it all? Silly or not, the movie is essentially a vehicle for the action sequences including car chases and the acrobatic parkour scenes. The film is helmed by editor-turned-director Camille Delamarre, so the fight scenes and chases are smooth. Whatever the mix of actors, stunt people, and effects, it flows on screen. It doesn’t make it any more intelligent, but at least it’s not dull.
As for the performances, this is the last film Walker completed before his tragic death last fall (although he apparently did do some work on the next “Fast and Furious” film). The movie is dedicated to his memory. The villains get much more to do in movies like this, so hip-hop star RZA acts smooth and rational before violently lashing out, while Ayisha Issa wins the most hissable villain contest as we long to see her get her just desserts.
None of this makes “Brick Mansions” of note, but for those who have one reason or another to see it – whether as fans of Walker or RZA or parkour–it should distract you for 90 minutes. It’s so forgettable though that if you do see it you may want to make note of the title so that you don’t accidentally rent it when it comes out on DVD.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.