As a film that does not take itself too seriously while highlighting a community divided by social class, “Brick Mansions” sends off Paul Walker as the hero we have come to know, but does not execute much else. Camille Demarre’s directorial debut aims to portray the injustices that poverty-stricken neighborhoods undergo when only the wealthy class is taken into consideration by the government. The cast is unique as it combines the late Paul Walker, Robert Fitzgerald Diggs (aka rapper RZA of Wu-Tang Clan) and founder of parkour, David Belle. As interesting as they may seem, this mixture of talents does not fuse well enough to carry this film far from the category of cliche action films.
The story takes place in dystopian Detroit in the year 2018. As the mayor proposes a 40-foot wall to be built around the urban ghettos known as Brick Mansions, it is evident that there is a conflict of interest between the government and the people of the city. Paul Walker plays the role of undercover detective Damien Collier, who has a personal vendetta against the notorious crime lord of Brick Mansions named Tremaine (played by Diggs). Alongside Walker, Belle’s character, ex-con Lino, is hard to ignore due to his jaw-dropping parkour stunts and fighting techniques. As a resident of Brick Mansions, Lino uses his talents to steal Tremaine’s drugs and keep them off the streets. When Tremaine conveniently gets his hands on an explosive device that originally belonged to the government, time is literally running out as Collier and Lino team up to disarm the bomb and simultaneously rescue Lino’s ex-girlfriend, Lola, who was kidnapped by Tremaine’s thugs.
While the overall storyline is interesting, there is no moment in the film that draws the viewer in on a personal level. Paul Walker’s performance is more or less the same good guy who can be aggressive when he needs to, but never loses his monotone composure. In one scene, Walker’s character hangs onto the back of a Chrysler 300 as is it being driven at speeds of 80 mph while he is simultaneously being shot at by the passenger of the car. Damien ends up making his way into the vehicle, takes the driver’s seat and even crashes into the police station so that the drug lord sitting next to him is sent through the windshield and into the station — and after surviving all this, Damien walks out of the car without a scratch. I suppose Walker’s character was supposed to be revealed in this scene as a badass detective who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, but how about a slight element of realness?
Entertaining as it may be, there is only so much that can be shown as “too good to be true” before the audience begins to lose interest, and this scene, among others, did just that. The shootout scenes were completely boring to watch as Damien and Lino somehow dodged every single bullet that was fired by Tremaine’s thugs, even when they were 10 feet away from them.
Where this film could use the most improvement is in the writing and character development. The lines spoken by leading and supporting actors were asinine and forgettable. The acting itself lacked conviction, and the “bad guys,” who were Tremaine’s gang of aimless thugs, contributed to make the film seem more like a joke than anything else due to their stereotypical attire of baggy clothing, chains and do-rags. In fact, it seems that some of these characters were only included in the film for comical purposes. One character in particular, K2, resembled a Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Rick Ross look-alike who was at first portrayed as a fearless thug, only to be revealed later as the biggest coward in the group. There was really nothing remotely frightening about the army of thugs, which took away from the seriousness of the film. The most memorable line perhaps is one where Tremaine says, “I come from a place where cash rules everything around me.” This line is memorable only because audiences recognize it from a famous Wu-Tang song by the name of “C.R.E.A.M.” Other than this line, Walker and Belle go back and forth with frivolous one-liners that only contribute to the cheesiness of the situations.
“Brick Mansions” proves to be ideal for parkour fanatics and die-hard Paul Walker fans. As a result, the spectrum for viewers who would enjoy this film runs small. Other than the small plot twist that is tossed into the mayhem of the film, there is not much about it that will keep viewers interested. Unless that viewer can relate to vigilante parkour performers, undercover cops who can magically dodge bullets or crime syndicate lords who, underneath it all, actually care about the people, then there is no reason to see the film in theaters.
Rating: 2 stars