Recently, I reviewed the humdrum action flick In The Blood. It was escapist entertainment that didn’t work because the filmmaker in charge couldn’t wrangle an action film. He understood the music, but didn’t necessarily know how to play the song.
After having watched Brick Mansions, I feel the need to follow-up with my analogy. Brick Mansions is that musician who knows the music, can perform the song, but has no desire to add any pizazz to the performance. They’ve been playing the same tune for years and have grown quite bored with it. The passion is gone and they’re only mashing out the chords to grab their share of the tips at the end of the night.
It wasn’t a surprise to find out Luc Besson was behind this turkey. He’s the definition of someone who’s been hammering out the same ole’ stuff film after film. There’s a slight exception with Brick Mansions, however, because the film is a remake of District B13 – a fast-paced, much better action film Besson produced. Nonetheless. Brick Mansions could’ve at least freshened up the material, or given audiences a film that had guts to try something outside of the basic formula. This just made me wish I was watching the 2006 cult hit.
What a generic drag this was! Director Camille Delamarre hands off the usual genre ingredients to the audience in a film that’s painfully average. Paul Walker (in one of his final roles) plays an undercover cop named Damien on a final mission to catch one elusive kingpin in a sectored-off area – Brick Mansions. The main plot of haves and have-nots involves gangsters and drugs, and an attractive damsel is tied to a touchy bomb. You could throw a stone in any direction and hit a movie that is strikingly similar to this that isn’t District B13.
Damien is paired up with a renegade named Lino (played by the light-footed David Belle) who gives him trouble and is smarter than your average criminal. The two are supposed to have an odd couple chemistry as Belle leaps through the air and Walker tries to adapt to the parkour freestyling. They even have scenes where they banter with each other while beating up the bad guys. Please, stop me if I hit anything that sounds new or shocking.
Belle and Walker show that they’re capable action stars and can actually pull off some neat synchronized brawls, but they don’t click when they’re not fighting. Walker is mildly engaging – possibly because he realizes that this role is played out by now – and Belle is trying to keep up with Walker’s plain performance. Understandably, it’s hard for actors to work with characters this cardboard and stale.
The excitement in the fight choreography gets progressively watered down as well because of how these sequences are edited. I haven’t seen District B13 in a while, but I remember being mesmerized by the parkour because of how real the agility was.
Delamarre (along with editors Carlo Rizzo and Arthur Tarnowski) execute the same sort of synthesized “hard-hitting” motions you’ve seen in modern actions. There’s a lot of wind-ups leading to the footage to be fast-forwarded and then slowed down while the actor is in mid-air or mid-punch. This takes away from the parkour’s energy. Before, we were really seeing these people leap and marvel anyone who watched. Now, we see each calculated move and flip.
Everyone behind the camera and in front of it show zero interest towards the film. Even Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA as the intimidating and intolerable boss of the criminals in Brick Mansions looks to be waiting for the film to hand him some juicy moments. Until then, he mumbles monologues and looks as if he’s about to fall asleep.
If everyone involved is showing a lack of respect for the film and its entertainment, why should I care either? All the public wanted was an enjoyable action flick. Instead, the Hollywood lunch lady filled her ladle up with clumpy colourless mulch and walloped it onto our plate. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of eating mulch.