By Shane M. Dallmann
Most viewers drawn to this movie in the first place were no doubt lured by its status as the final completed film of Paul Walker. I must confess that when I first saw the TV spot I didn’t notice Walker at all… I immediately recognized this as a remake of the Luc Besson production DISTRICT 13 (which I continually refer to as DISTRICT B-13 thanks to the original French title). Besson scripted the remake himself for new feature director Camille Delamarre (the editor of TRANSPORTER 3 and TAKEN 2 gets to do TRANSPORTER 4 next, apparently).
So… it’s pretty much the identical story, only now it’s set in future Detroit (yes, just like…) Walker steps in as the undercover cop determined to avenge his late father by finally collaring the well-protected and well-connected drug lord (RZA), but in the smartest possible move (considering exactly what made DISTRICT 13 a hit in the first place), the original’s David Belle reprises his falsely-accused convict (now rechristened “Lino”) and parkours the hell out of everything just like you were hoping.
Now, actually, even though I’d seen it all before (plus a sequel), I’ve got to acknowledge that BRICK MANSIONS did quite a good job of assimilating Walker into the action. To be honest, I haven’t seen a FAST/FURIOUS movie since the first one, but I’ve been aware of Paul Walker ever since his sympathetic turn in JOY RIDE. If you’re going to see this just to pay your respects, you’ll get everything you want from his lead performance here (including plenty of the expected vehicular mayhem which will make you cringe in hindsight), but this remake accommodates the fact that he could NOT do parkour himself without resorting to phony doubles and/or CGI (well, except for one rather obviously enhanced super-jump). There’s even an “elevator” gag near the end of the film so blatantly stolen from THE BLUES BROTHERS that you’ll be surprised that they didn’t go all the way and play “The Girl From Ipanema” in the background! Belle does what Belle does best and Walker does what Walker does best, so there’s nothing to complain about here. As for RZA? Well… he’s just fine in his first few scenes, but the more you see and hear from him, the more you’re reminded of just why THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS didn’t quite measure up. Sorry.
The other thing working against BRICK MANSIONS is the obvious stranglehold of the obligatory PG-13 rating… this is a film that cries out to be “R” for violence, language, and yes, even sex, as the nasty “game play” between the captive Lola (Catalina Denis) and the bondage-geared sidekick Rayzah (Ayisha Issa) seems to belong in another film altogether. More in keeping with the comic-book nature of the film is a welcome appearance by SHERLOCK HOLMES’ Robert Maillet (aka former WWE wrestler Kurrgan) as the formidable “Yeti” (on the receiving end of one of the better fight gags).
The fights themselves are, as usual, hyper-accelerated and epileptically-edited, but at least they slow down long enough to allow you to see what Belle is up to without special effects. And speaking of special effects? It looks like we’ve been spared the 3-D conversion the film appears to have been aiming for.
So there you have it. If you want to see it for Paul Walker, it’s worth seeing. If you want to see another DISTRICT 13 film and can’t have a third entry in the original series, it’s worth seeing. If you’ve seen DISTRICT 13 and give this one a miss? You’ll forget this one even happened.