It’s a general consensus among film fanatics that well-made action films are hard to come by nowadays. For every action film like The Raid 2 (which you can read my review for here), it seems like ten other ones come out that completely ruin credibility for the genre moving forward, movies like Alex Cross, A Good Day to Die Hard, and many more. Brick Mansions, however, was a film that seemed to be attempting to break that mold. Based on a 2004 French film, its incorporation of parkour as a fighting style looked to give the film an interesting angle that could potentially separate it from the generic and formulaic action film fans have come to expect.
Brick Mansions takes place in a futuristic, dystopian Detroit where an abandoned housing project from years before is now the resting place for the most dangerous criminals. Unsuccessful in their attempts to take down crime in the complex, the city has constructed a giant wall around the area to protect the rest of the city. When drug kingpin Tremaine, played by RZA, gets his hands on a dangerous bomb and points it toward downtown Detroit, undercover cop Damien Collier, played by Paul Walker, must team up with ex-convict Lino, played by David Belle, to take down the drug lord and stop his sinister plot.
Brick Mansions is, by in large, a cinematic mess that seems to fail in every major category of filmmaking. The story is absurd half the time and completely boring the other half, taking an interesting concept (and potential interesting message on the power struggle between the rich and poor) and filling it to the brim with inconsistencies and schlocky pacing. The dialogue and acting is absolutely cringe-worthy for a majority of the film as well. RZA’s attempt at portraying an intimidating drug lord completely fails as he comes off more like a cartoon character, even going so far as to reference one of his popular songs from the Wu Tang Clan in a negotiation situation. Walker and Belle’s chemistry does work for the most part, but the stilted dialogue and complete lack of direction gives them nothing interesting to work with and, as a result, the two look bored out of their goddamn minds.
However, easily one of the film’s biggest flaws is the complete lack of originality. Sitting in the theater, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at each time the film decided to directly copy techniques that have plagued the action movie genre over the past few years. Slow motion to fast motion action, CGI-zooms, and quick cut editing completely smother any potential the film has at standing out from all of the other generic action films that Hollywood seems to toss onto the big screen to make a quick buck. Easily one of the greatest missed opportunities was the way the filmmakers used David Belle, whose impressive stunt work is restricted by a director whose intuition is to automatically use quick cuts in an attempt to provide a sense of thrill and disorientation for the audience. Long-time editor and first time director Camille Delamarre falls into the trap of the generic action movie, and in turn the audience suffers immensely
Spending anymore time talking about this film would be a waste of my time and yours as well. Brick Mansions is a sloppy and uninspired mess that proves Hollywood will continue to try and make quick money off of unsuspecting moviegoers, taking a cool concept and the potential for interesting action scenes and butchering them completely. As the credits rolled and the memoriam for Paul Walker came onto screen, I couldn’t help but feel sadness that this is the last film he completed. Please do not go see this film.
Review by Nicholas Franco