If Brick Mansions seems very familiar, it is because it is a remake of Luc Besson’s (and Bibi Naceri’s) script Banlieue 13 and Besson has written the new script. It is also reminiscent of a host of better films, such as Assault on Precinct 13, Die Hard and The Raid, in which a building full of criminals provides a fortress against law and order.
In Brick Mansions, the action is set in Detroit where the mayor, no doubt modelled after Boris Johnson, wants to solve the city’s problems by blowing up the Brick Mansions tenement block and replacing it with luxury high rises owned by foreign investors. The result is ridiculous, violent and clichéd nonsense.
The disaster is mitigated to some extent by the well choreographed display of ‘parkour’ from Frenchman David Belle (The Family, Banlieue 13 Prince of Persia) and his chemistry with the late Paul Walker (The Fast & the Furious franchise), who died in a car crash shortly after completing this film.
Detroit, some time in the near future. Brick Mansions, once a great place to live, has been neglected and is now a breeding ground for criminals. The building compound is run by drug king Alexander Tremaine (RZA). The homicide rate is so high (apparently the highest it has been in 40 years, which makes no sense), that a wall has been built around it to protect the decent residents of the beleaguered city.
Ace Detective Damien Collier (Paul Walker) is instructed by the chief of police and mayor to infiltrate Brick Mansions and destroy a bomb that Tremaine has pointed at the city. Collier has a score to settle with Tremaine, so he is keen, but the odds d. Collier is told that he has one potential ally in the ghetto, a vigilante named Lino Dupree (Belle).
The filmmakers ask us to believe that Collier, a member of the police union, would be given 10 hours and no back up or other help in what is clearly a suicide mission. We are also asked to believe that the mayor would build a wall (a subtle parallel with Israel and Palestine) around Brick Mansions with no political fall out, or that no journalist or opposition candidate would discover that a corrupt cop is guarding Brick Mansions in cahoots with Tremaine.
Dupree experiences this corruption first hand, but in this age of social networking, is there really no way to publicise it? Finally, we are expected to believe that Tremaine, a drug dealer who shoots his henchmen in the chest for looking at him the wrong way, is really a responsible would-be mayoral candidate and an innocent victim of circumstances.
Besson has once again asked one of his stable of apprentices – this time, editor Camille Delamarre – to direct. Fortunately, Delamarre is able to make the most of David Belle’s talent for Parkour and stunt co-ordinating. Belle, a kung-fu black belt with a degree in gymnastics, is a co-founder of the Parkour movement, a form of street art, involving choreographed jumping, climbing and running, with the urban landscape being seen as an obstacle to master. Belle is something to watch, and being paired up with the handsome, affable Paul Walker doesn’t hurt.