As I was watching the latest EuropaCorp production, Brick Mansions, I couldn't help but think to myself that this was a film that had rather remarkable potential to be a socially insightful and at least reasonably meaningful action flick.
Then, I remembered that EuropaCorp is, in fact, Luc Besson's production company and Brick Mansions is, in fact, essentially a remake of Besson's 2004 French language hit District B13, a superior film in most every way that actually counts.
It's not really that plot actually matters a whole lot in Brick Mansions, but the story centers around a dystopian Detroit in the near future where an area known as Brick Mansions has been walled off due to its excessive violence and the fact that it houses those basically known as the dregs of society. The late Paul Walker plays Damien, an undercover cop tasked with infiltrating Brick Mansions with the help of Lino (David Belle, who was also in District B13), a Frenchman who is inexplicably living within the mansions and whose presence is never really fully explained.
Of course, it doesn't really matter.
The two have to disarm a nuclear weapon that has fallen into the hands of a Brick Mansions kingpin, Tremaine (RZA of Wu-Tang Clan), a cooking obsessed chap with a trio of henchman who look and act exactly like the kind of henchmen you would expect in this kind of film.
There's a foundation in Brick Mansions that can't help but make you wish that Besson would occasionally flex as much brain as he does brawn. This is a brawny, muscular, absurd, and rhythmically fluid film that never even comes close to possessing the kind of substance you might expect from a film that has as its core the issues between races and economic classes. Heck, I'd have settled for even a Hunger Games level of insight.
Brick Mansions isn't about insight or analysis or anything remotely thought provoking. It's about a cartoonish style of action fueled by fast-paced parkour, of which David Belle is considered one of the founders. Brick Mansions is a solid reminder of just how good Paul Walker was in films such as this one - he manages, as he always managed, to add just the right dose of gravitas to an otherwise chaotic and noisy motion picture. David Belle's presence is intended almost solely as a purveyor of parkour, while RZA gives the film a dose of B-movie humor that is a touch odd yet never feels out of place.
Of course, there are plot twists to be found in Brick Mansions including an ending that doesn't entirely satisfy. The story isn't quite as simple as it seems, a not particularly surprising fact but one that should work well enough for most action fans who will seek this film out either because they are Besson fans or simply wanting to catch one of Walker's final roles.
Director Camille Delamarre, one of Besson's regular editors, doesn't quite have the confident style of Besson at this point in his game, but he does possess a visual style that will please those willing to substantially suspend disbelief.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic