Film Review: Off the wall fun

Film Review: Off the wall fun
David Belle, left, and the late Paul Walker star in “Brick Mansions.” Photo by Philippe Bosse

Kinetic energy, action makes ‘Brick Mansions’ entertaining

Despite its vanilla quality with regard to the script and performances, “Brick Mansions” meets the expectations for functional popcorn entertainment.

In the not-too-distant future, criminals inhabit the abandoned Detroit brick mansions from better times. In response, the police established a containment wall to protect the city. But for undercover cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker), that dangerous neighborhood is where he needs to go if he is to take down drug kingpin Tremaine Alexander (RZA), who has a plan to destroy Detroit.

To achieve this goal, however, Damien must team up with ex-convict Lino Dupree (David Belle), whose girlfriend has been captured by Tremaine’s gang.

This simple but effective premise leaves no room for complexities or depth; the only driving force behind the film is its kinetic energy. That’s a sound solution to keep the brain occupied for 90 minutes without having to use it, but not the answer needed to find a unique flavor in a tried and true formula.

Like most action films, “Brick Mansions” devotes considerable attention to everything violent and physical – and all other elements play second fiddle. Dialogue is of average quality, acting chops adhere to the standard rules of the genre, and character development has “basic” written all over it. There’s nothing out of the ordinary in these departments.

Come to think of it, the “characters” seen here are mere stereotypes typical of the action genre. There’s the good cop (Walker), the ex-convict (Belle), the drug lord (RZA), the chief henchman (Kwasi Songui), the bad girl enforcer (Ayisha Issa), the girlfriend (Catalina Denis), and…well, you get the point.

While the cast performances are by no means a disgrace to the genre, they’re so plain that to see them stand out is impossible. Walker, Belle, and RZA do what the mediocre script asks them to do, and not much else. It’s too bad the three leads didn’t make an effort to imbue their roles with a bit more substance than they were given.

Really, however, “Brick Mansions” isn’t the kind of film you watch to overanalyze every little detail. The physicality does all the real work around here, and should win over audiences who enjoy the sight of people navigating dangerous scenarios using everything at their disposal.

With the use of rapid editing cuts and occasional short spurts of slow motion, “Brick Mansions” honors its promise to create brutal action sequences.

Most of them involve extensive parkour techniques from Belle himself, who opens the film with a frenetic apartment building escape. He continues to deliver the goods over and over again due to the fluid grace in his maneuvers, and hardly gets tired; if anything, he seems to want to do more!

Of course, “Brick Mansions” has more than its fair share of the expected action film antics: car chases, street fights, shootouts, an explosion or two, and so on.

This is where Walker gets to do his thing, and he matches Belle’s stunts with moves of his own. His brutal delivery hits all the right notes, thereby fulfilling what he has always intended to do on the big screen: wow the audience.

OK, it’s obvious that “Brick Mansions” does its job to entertain moviegoers looking for something to unwind their brains, even though its dependence on formula can be problematic at times. What truly matters, however, is that this film knows what it is deep down inside and has no reason to hide its identity, and serves as the perfect sendoff for Paul Walker.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material

Run time: 1 hour and 30minutes

Playing: In general release


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