Brick Mansions (2014)

Poster for Brick Mansions

Luc Besson and EuropaCorp remake their French-language hit, District 13 (Banlieu 13, 2004), this time in English. I don’t remember much about the original movie except that I enjoyed it. That’s more than I can say about this one. The plot does ring bells, featuring a near future Detroit (instead of Paris) where a ghetto neighborhood has been walled off and anarchy reigns. There’s a bomb, a kidnapped girl, and two guys (one a cop, the other a denizen of the ghetto) who have to work together to solve these two problems.

The raison d’ĂȘtre for the first film was to show off some parkour action, and you’d think the same might be true for the remake. David Belle, who plays the ghetto denizen who has to team up with the cop and who played the same role in the original movie, gets one really good parkour sequence in the opening scene, but that’s about it for good action. The rest of it is uninspired, even the attempts to squeeze humor out of Paul Walker’s inability to mimic Belle’s parkour moves. Since this is an action movie, that means what we get is a lot of uninteresting and basically pointless chases that serve only to get us from one plot point to the next. The wisecracking that might otherwise distract us isn’t particularly wise or cracking. The sheer number of cliches, dead formulas, and stereotypes on display was mind-numbing, and it wasn’t saved by a sudden, cynical shift to populist politics in the happy ending.

Whether you find anything of interest in this one may depend on how you feel about Paul Walker and RZA, who plays the villain (or is he?) Since I never was into the Wu-Tang Clan, there wasn’t much frisson for me watching RZA chop red peppers with a cleaver. (The martial arts film he directed, The Man with the Iron Fists, is better.) I did find myself unexpectedly moved by the memorial to Walker at the end of the film, but that was far and away the most moving thing in this film.

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