Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image David Belle, as Lino, and Paul Walker, as Damien, form an unlikely team of convict and cop to stop a bomb and take down a drug dealer in “Brick Mansions.” image courtesy Relativity Media

April 24, 2014
‘Brick Mansions’: It could be way worse

I

knew it had to end sometime.

The movies have been too good. I’ve had more than a month of not-terrible movies, but that’s not always sustainable.

I guess if the end had to come, it could have been worse than “Brick Mansions.”

Paul Walker’s last completed film takes place in near-future Detroit, where the city has deteriorated so badly that martial law has been declared and the inner-city projects — dubbed the Brick Mansions — have been walled off from the rest of the city. Walker is Damien, an undercover narcotics officer who became personally involved in the fight against drug dealers in Brick Mansions ever since his father was killed in a raid. His white whale is Tremaine (RZA), the biggest kingpin in the neighborhood who also dabbles in arms deals.

When Tremaine’s gang steals an armored truck carrying a potent bomb, Damien is recruited for a desperate, highly dangerous mission to disarm it before it levels the Brick Mansions area entirely. His only help is Lino (David Belle), a French-Caribbean ex-pat who has lived most of his life in Brick Mansions — and whose ex-girlfriend, Lola (Catalina Denis), was kidnapped and has been held hostage since he tried to take down Tremaine himself.

After the cursory disagreements between con and cop, the two work together, using martial arts and parkour, to get to Tremaine — and the bomb — in time. But as the countdown draws short, they begin to suspect that something larger and more sinister may be afoot.

Because Paul Walker cannot be in anything without a glut of car chases, there are plenty of those. But make no mistake: this is not an off-brand “Fast and the Furious”; if anything, “Fast and the Furious” is to street racing what “Brick Mansions” is to parkour (a sport that essentially treats a city like one big playground) and inner-city violence.

The plot was flimsy and choppy, like it forgot a subplot midway through and just shrugged it off, and the dialogue was terrible both in writing and delivery, except for Walker, whose natural-sounding and funny lines stick out like golden thumbs.

The endlessly fluctuating camera work and constant speed-ups and slow-downs got old fast, and the characters were about as three-dimensional as a sheet of looseleaf. The “twist” at the end can be seen from miles away, and much of the violence, largely against a seemingly endless hoard of underprivileged gang-bangers, felt like it was fabricated just so we could see more sweet parkour moves.

Out of curiosity, I would like to see if there’s a steep increase in parkour-related injuries after this movie is released. It needs to come with a gigantic “Don’t Try This At Home” banner every time Lino runs up a multi-story wall or jumps through a closed window. You wouldn’t think that would be necessary, but you would also think it wouldn’t be necessary for hair dryer manufacturers to slap on labels warning against using their product while in the bathtub.

And I just have to say, the outfit Tremaine’s confusing enforcer, Rayzah (Ayisha Issa), wears is more absurdly impractical and uncomfortable-looking than anything I’ve seen outside comic books from the early 90s. It was super distracting every time she came on screen, because I couldn’t help but think of how long that would take to put on in the morning. Hey, Rayzah, let me introduce you to my good friends, hoodie and sweatpants.

The one good thing I have to say about this movie, aside from Walker’s oddly good performance, is that it’s only 90 minutes long. It could be way worse.

One caveat to all of this criticism: “Brick Mansions” might be trying to be ridiculous. I could have missed out on the joke. I never figured out “The Fast and the Furious,” either, so this might actually be quality entertainment for a certain set of viewers. It’s possible that I just didn’t get it.

Not likely, but possible.

Grade: C-

Rated: PG-13

Time: 90 minutes

Opens Friday

Lisa Christensen

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Lisa covers primarily crime and courts, military affairs, Stansbury Park government and transportation issues. She is a graduate of Utah State University, where she double-majored in journalism and music, and Grantsville High School.

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