Cinema-Maniac: Brick Mansions (2014) Review

There were two reasons that convinced me to see “Brick Mansions” aside from liking the original “District B13”. The first was David Belle who for some reason decided to play the same character twice was in front of the camera again. Second reason is I like Paul Walker. When it came to playing stoic heroes he fit the bill understanding these kind of roles. While this was the last film Paul Walker completed, thankfully it’s not the last film he appeared in (thank goodness for Fast and Furious Seven). This remake is a lazy carbon copy of the original adding insult to injury are it overabundance of action scenes that makes it feel longer than it actually is.

Brick Mansion follows an undercover Detroit cop navigating a dangerous neighborhood that’s surrounded by a containment wall. With the help of an ex-con in order to bring down a crime lord and his plot to devastate the entire city. If you’ve seen “District B13” you’ve seen “Brick Mansions”. Nothing about the story is given the tiniest thought of effort as it copies every plot point used in “District B13”. It’s one tedious experience for fans of the original film as it offers no new surprises and the few insignificant changes (like the hostage this time being a former girlfriend instead of a character sister) it does make are pointless. Most astonishing for this viewer is how it manages to contains even less story. The difference here is primarily quantity in action. Whereas the original film knew when to take a breather no matter how small it was and not over saturate itself with action scenes. In “Brick Mansions” in my timing experiment (that’s how bored I got) the longest it could last without an action sequence is almost nine minutes and the shortest it could last without an action scene was around fifty seconds. Now does that in any way sounds like good pacing with that little amount of breathing room. In execution it’s far worse whenever you expect the story to return at any moment. Characters are either getting chased or fighting repeatedly since there’s little substance to sustain viewers attention.

If you’ve never seen the original “Brick Mansions” feels like an endurance test. This is one of those instances where highlighting characters and story become part of the issue. Since it doesn’t have a single engaging character the overabundance of action scenes that come one after another become yawn inducing. With an overabundance of action scenes the story is not given any time to developed naturally. A double edged sword crippling itself in anything it attempts to do. The writers of the remake are so indolent in their position they don’t bother to write good original dialogue. “Sometimes you don’t gotta be a rocket scientist. You just gotta have a rocket” is said by the film villain while he’s cooking after revealing his rocket. All characters are stock action archetypes, filled with cheesy moments poorly contrasting the more gritty side of the material, and every scene not involving our characters fighting to remain alive pulls out action cliches after action cliches. It believes its clever throwing off audience expectations with it twist, but in this remake they don’t work as sufficiently as they should. Much like everything else in the story it appears nothing translated well in this remake from the original film.

Camille Delamarre (editor of Taken 2) makes an unengaging action movie even worse with his inability to film or edit an action scene properly. Action scenes ranges from meh to passable in terms of staging and choreography, but with Delamarre direction he downgrades what should have been solid set pieces. They all generally suffer from being over edited having too many quick cuts that makes it look erratic. There’s no fluidity to be found in how these action scenes are cut together. What makes this worse is you know there’s some good stunt work to enjoy from the setup provided in them, but is framed to close or cuts off an important visual from your sight. Paul Walker is likable in the leading role, but his role doesn’t demand much of him. Walker remains stoic throughout the film letting his supporting cast react to what’s going on around them. David Belle performance is passable. His lines are dubbed (some bad lips syncing included) so when he has to talk it shows his inexperience, but where Belle shine is in his action scenes. He performs them convincingly whether he’s performing parkour or doing a fight scene. Unfortunately Belle and Walker don’t have any chemistry with one another. There’s always a disconnect with them whenever they have to interact with one another. It doesn’t help the actors we follow most has only one that could act and the other could only do action scenes convincingly. RZA plays the film the villain and not a single line said is convincing. Granted his lines are terrible, but he plays a clearly cartoonish villain rather straight. Instead of being loose and over the top he delivers everything at face value. The rest of the supporting cast is also passable without outshining the leads.

Brick Mansions short and simple is the definition of indolent remakes. It copies the story without significant changes and since it wants to highlight its characters it makes it that much more noticeable how weak they are. More than half of the action scenes are copied from “District B13” except this time are poorly framed being unable to enjoy the stunt work and overly edited that it become distorted. If one were to remove the fact that this is Paul Walker last starring film there’s nothing much of value to appreciate once it ends. By the end of the film the first thought that came to my mind was “Thank goodness this wasn’t Paul Walker last movie”. Just for even making me think that is enough for me to consider “Brick Mansions” a failure of a film.


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