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Friday, April 25, 2014

Brick Mansions Review: Lowbrow But Sinfully Fun

The utterly corny and lowbrow Brick Mansions is utterly enjoyable Summer action fare. 

Review by: Matt Cummings 

A couple of years ago, we were graced with a new kind of action film based on the urban martial arts style parkour, in which its hero propelled himself through windows and down stairs with a grace that gave The Matrix a run for its money. The film - District B13 - and its hero David Belle was fun 'cops-vs-thugs' that eventually saw parkour show up in films like Casino Royale. With the release of the Americanized Brick Mansions, we learn that the fighting style still needs compelling tales to move it forward.

Set in the slums of a futuristic Detroit, Lino (David Belle) and undercover cop Damien (Paul Walker) attempt to capture a wayward nuke stolen by the local thug Tremaine (RZA). He plans to launch it back over a massive wall separating slum and non-slum Detroit, hoping to destroy the caste system along the way. Unfortunately, the shirtless vigilante Lino gets his ex-girlfriend (Catalina Denis) involved, forcing Tremaine to take her hostage. But not all is as it seems, as Lino and Damien soon learn of a deep conspiracy that goes all the way to the mayor's office. Faced with a bomb on countdown, the duo must use their physical skills to save Detroit from collapsing into a nuclear winter. 

Mansions was Walker's last finished film before his tragic death in 2013. And while we feel a pang of conscience to blindly support his work, there's just too many holes in the plot and poor performances to give it a pass. RZA is still a long way to becoming a film star, and his random shooting of lieutenants and street soldiers was done so much better in B13. Walker once again plays an undercover cop who's placed at a moralistic crossroads, and is clearly a wild brawler compared to Belle's graceful strides (and jumps). The script is filled with plenty of unbelievable gun violence in which our heroes seem to constantly escape the wild volley of bullets with nare a scratch. And Belle himself is the victim of horrible ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement), sounding almost as bad as Mel Gibson in the original Mad Max

And yet...we still liked it. Director Camille Delamarre and Writer Luc Besson - who directed B13 - know what they have and use it to enjoyable effect. Belle is everywhere, riding on ceilings and brawling quite well with Walker at several points in the film. He and Walker have good chemistry, chiding each other throughout the picture. And there's a terrific girl fight scene that's almost kinky at times (short skirted Denis against a Dominatrix-like fem). If one walks into Mansions expecting cinematic mastery, they will be sorely disappointed. Much like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, anything other than a completely open mind might disappoint.

Brick Mansions is easily digestible action fare, content to sacrifice story for sweet jumps and impossible martial arts chicanery. Don't expect too much out of it, lest the memory of Walker's other non-Fast & Furious films begin to creep into your mind.

Brick Mansions is rated PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material. and has a runtime of 90 minutes. 

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


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