Sunday, June 22, 2014

Brick Mansions - a solid disappointment

movie review

Brick Mansions

The untimely demise of celebrities often generates a lot of interest in their final projects. And that is perhaps the biggest (and quite possibly the only) draw of action thriller Brick Mansions, the last film actor Paul Walker completed prior to his death in a car crash last year.

Brick Mansions takes us to a dystopian Detroit, where the city’s most dangerous criminals are holed up in housing projects known as brick mansions, located in an area cordoned off and abandoned by the government. The drug kingpin Tremaine (RZA) has become its ruthless overlord. But when the city’s mayor, who wants to restore Detroit to its former glory, assigns undercover detective Damien Collier (Paul Walker) with the task of recovering a stolen bomb in the troubled region, the cop sees this as a chance to avenge his father’s death. To infiltrate the brick mansions, Collier has to team up with ex-convict and parkour enthusiast Lino (David Belle), whose girlfriend Lola (Catalina Denis) has been kidnapped by Tremaine. Together they must untangle the web of deceit and save the city from destruction.

The film is written by Luc Besson (the co-writer of the cult hit District 13, the French film on which Brick Mansions is based) and Robert Mark Kamen, who was also behind films such as Taken and Taken 2. The directing duties have been thrust into the hands of first-timer Camille Delamarre (the editor of Taken 2). But instead of producing an exciting romp, the filmmakers have ended up creating a project that falters on almost all counts.

Clichés abound. The film proceeds with action movie mechanics and preposterous antics at every turn. Fights break out every few minutes, and the story primarily exists to cursorily link action sequences, taking us from one combat or chase scene to another. The parkour acrobatics are fun for a while, but with no solid plot to back them up, they soon start to feel redundant.

There are clunky attempts at sociopolitical commentary every now and then, and the narrative arcs of some of the characters — especially its chief villain — are too ham-fisted to be engaging. The jittery editing doesn’t help either. The supporting cast is sub-standard and the interactions of their underwritten characters are tiresome, thanks to the piffle that passes for the movie’s script.

David Belle’s acrobatic moves are impressive, although no degree of athletic agility can make up for a disappointingly bland character. Paul Walker is right at home in the film, even if the film completely lets him down. But as he goes around chasing bad guys, often in (or on) a car, it gets hard not to think of the actor behind the character. Thereon, the proceedings start bordering on uncomfortable.

Ultimately though, Brick Mansions’ biggest flaw is that it just isn’t fun enough, even in the way that silly action movies can be. The film could and should have been more exciting and amusing, but a ridiculous plotline and bad filmmaking choices result in a project that even its charismatic leads cannot salvage.

Rating: 1.5/5

- By Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine - 22 June 2014 *

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