Movie Review: “Brick Mansions”

Relativity Media(NEW YORK) -- *Sigh*

There’s no way around it: Brick Mansions is a sad movie, on many levels. Foremost, it’s the first time we’re seeing Paul Walker following his tragic death in a high-speed car crash last November. Even worse, there are several instances in which Walker’s character, a police detective named Damien, is involved in several high-speed car chases and crashes.  You’d have to be clueless not to make the association.  Movies are supposed to be escapism, but there's no way here to escape the specter of Walker’s death.

It’s 2018, and Detroit has fallen on hard times, I mean, harder than usual.  At the core of its problems, at least according to the politicians, is a large housing project referred to as Brick Mansions.  Things are so bad there, the mayor constructs thick concrete walls around Brick Mansions, supposedly to isolate the city’s worst problems.

We learn just how inconsequential this movie's plot is going to be when the mayor tries to convince some business developers to build a fancy shopping district over Brick Mansions, without offering a solution for what to do with the people living there.  It defies logic, and is disconcerting enough to immediately put some moviegoers off.

As for the people who live in Brick Mansions: let’s talk about Lino, played by French actor and Parkour creator David Belle, who starred in 2004's District 13 and its sequel, the two French films on which Brick Mansions is based.  Lino is that guy, the one who wants to protect all the innocent people in the projects from the thugs who rule the streets.  The head thug is Tremaine (RZA), a well-dressed, gourmet-food-cooking, Bob Marley-loving, tough-talking killer who may or may not be what he seems.

Lino, and his brand of Parkour, is a problem for Tremaine.  Tremaine is a problem for Damien, because Tremaine killed his father, a legendary cop. Not only is Damien dedicated to taking down the city’s top crime kingpins, he also wants to avenge his father’s death.

The mayor calls upon Damien for help.  Tremaine’s boys have hijacked a truck with a bomb on it, and Damien's task is to infiltrate Brick Mansions, find Tremaine, and detonate the bomb.  It seems like an impossible task but Damien will have some help from Lino, who's currently in prison for killing a cop. 

Sound reasonable? No, it does not. It’s plain stupid, but perhaps one shouldn't expect much more from a mindless action flick filled with gratuitous Parkour chases and violence, and stilted dialogue so ridiculous, it’s actually funny.

Walker did his best here with what he was given and RZA is always interesting, but Brick Mansions is a shallow, faux-dystopian tale with little to offer other than some exciting stunts, which is precisely why some people are going to see it anyway. At least there's a nice tribute to Walker before the end credits.

Two out of five stars.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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