Brick Mansions (Canada/France, 2014)

April 24, 2014
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Brick Mansions Poster

As cynical as it may sound, it's probably true that the death of actor Paul Walker gave life to Brick Mansions. A D-grade action flick with nothing to recommend it beyond a cacophony of mind-numbingly generic action sequences, Brick Mansions can be marketed as the "final completed film" made by the late Walker. So, instead of heading directly to video where it rightfully belongs, the movie is getting a theatrical release. Not since Donald Pleasance exited Stage Right shortly after completing Halloween 6 has a notable actor suffered such an ignominious farewell.

Walker's career, it should be noted, sputtered outside The Fast and Furious franchise. Although long expected to become a major player in the action arena, he never matured into that role. Brick Mansions is an example of the kind of lesser fare he was forced to participate in to maintain a steady stream of work outside his outings with Vin Diesel. Fortunately, Brick Mansions won't define his legacy. In fact, when one speaks of Walker's life and career, this film won't be mentioned, which is as it should be for something this forgettable.

The storyline doesn't startle with its originality, sounding like a low-rent version of The Raid: Redemption. Undercover cop Damien (Walker), partnered with escaped convict Lino (David Belle), is tasked with infiltrating Detroit's infamous "Brick Mansions" housing development. While there, he has to locate crime lord Tremaine (RZA), who is in possession of a neutron bomb. Unfortunately, Tremaine's tampering with the bomb has started a countdown to detonation. Damien has 10 hours to convince the bad guy to let him defuse it, but there's an issue. Damien blames Tremaine for his father's death and is interested in revenge.

When done with flair and energy, few things are more exciting than an action scene. However, when executed with a pedestrian lack of verve, action becomes repetitive and boring. The adrenaline junkie is more likely to go into withdrawal as a result of watching Brick Mansions than get a fix. The repeated car chases, foot races, shootouts, and fist fights that form the latticework of the movie's threadbare plot are devoid of tension or suspense. There's no sense that any of the characters are in jeopardy. In fact, using the term "characters" to describe the thinly-drawn and woodenly acted types is a stretch.

A remake of the passable 2004 French film District B13, Brick Mansions contains all the action staples, but they are assembled by director Camille Delamarre (making his feature debut) without any sense of style or intelligence, and barely more than a nod to coherence. A neutron bomb? Are we supposed to take that seriously? In other circumstances, Brick Mansions might have been a legitimate contender to enter the realm of movies described as "so bad they're good." Unfortunately, Walker's untimely demise casts a pall over the production, especially when we see his character involved in high-speed car chases. The lingering sour taste makes Brick Mansions excruciating to endure. There's no fun to be had here and if an action movie doesn't make the grade as escapist entertainment, what's the point? If the filmmakers had really wanted to honor Walker's memory, a better move might have been to bury Brick Mansions with him rather than letting this misfire see the light of day.

Brick Mansions (Canada/France, 2014)

Director: Camille Delamarre
Cast: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA, Catalina Denis, Gouchy Boy, Ayisha Issa
Screenplay: Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri
Cinematography: Christophe Collette
Music: Marc Bell, Trevor Morris
U.S. Distributor: Relativity Media
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2014-04-25
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1