Adrenaline runs high in the entertaining, action-heavy remake of the 2004 French film "District B13." Starring the late Paul Walker in one of his last roles, "Brick Mansions" packs gunfights, car chases, acrobatic stunts and humor into one stylized package.
In the urban ghetto of Detroit, which has been surrounded by a containment wall, narcotics officer Damien (Walker) goes undercover and teams with ex-con Lino (David Belle) to infiltrate a crew of criminals and defuse a confiscated bomb.
Originally set for a February release, the film comes five months after Walker's death in a car accident and it was a bit unsettling to see him running around in the future. But his love for action roles comes through clearly in this movie. From the detailed fight scenes to the subtle humor, Walker was in his element. He's as gutsy and charming as ever.
Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA plays crime lord Tremaine. As the ring leader of the slums, RZA looks the part. But rarely do you believe a word he says when he attempts to be threatening. There's too much hesitation and not enough conviction. Later, Tremaine reveals redeeming qualities, which RZA embodies with more believability.
There's an element of camp to this movie as well, which allows those who aren't the best actors — Walker included — to prompt a few laughs.
"Brick Mansions" was directed by newbie Camille Delamarre and written by Luc Besson, who also wrote "District B13." Like the original, "Mansions" is set in the near future, although there's really nothing in the film that shows us we're a few years ahead other than the "2018" that is flashed on the screen.
The many fight sequences were choreographed using a technique called Parkour, which was created by Belle, also a star in the original film. Parkour incorporates vaulting, flipping, swinging, rolling, etc., to move through various obstacles in a scene. The action is frozen for a split second during many of these moves and extreme close-ups put us right in the action.
At times the Parkour technique requires the ability to suspend disbelief, especially when a character is jumping from one rooftop to another, climbing brick walls or overpowering as many as four men at once.
Focused on finding Tremaine, who he believes killed his father, Damien's motivation is rooted in revenge. Lino's subplot revolves around his ex-girlfriend, Lola. Tremaine has dragged her into the slums, which she had worked hard to escape. But she's no damsel in distress.
Lola can fight and handle a gun — all while showing off quite a bit of leg in a waitress outfit that looks like a truncated schoolgirl uniform. At one point, Lola and the main dame in Tremaine's clique, Rayzah (Ayisha Issa), who sports a tiny leather ensemble, duke it out. Though it's a clichéd fantasy come to life, it's still a hot scene.
At the heart of the film is the social commentary focusing on a community divided. Within Brick Mansions, there is no school, hospital or police station, and those who live there are mostly minorities. It's made clear that the government could care less about the Brick folks, as they're said to contribute nothing to society.
This is not a film that will shift anyone's moral compass. But it's worth it to see Walker in the last film he was able to complete.
"Brick Mansions," a Relativity Media release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material." Running time: 89 minutes. Two stars out of four.
MPAA rating definition for PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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