Usually when a film does well overseas, Hollywood pounces before most have seen the original. The domestic Death at a Funeral came a mere three years later after the British original, and not even the fan-favorite The Raid is safe, with an Americanized version headed our way. The difference between something like Death at a Funeral and The Raid is that Hollywood knows that Americans generally hate subtitle. And now Luc Besson has remade one of his own French-produced films — starring the late Paul Walker in one of his last roles — after a ten year gap, with District B13 relabeled Brick Mansions. (At least the remake didn’t spring up almost immediately!)
Brick Mansions is a virtual clone of District B13, with only time and place updated (to Detroit in 2018). Crime is out of control, and many of the city’s more unruly citizens reside in the titular Brick Mansions.
The Mayor (Bruce Ramsay) wants to demolish the ghetto to make way for a brighter future. Undercover cop Damien (Walker), has just taken down druglord George the Greek (Carlo Rota), and has set his sights on drug kingpin Tremaine Alexander (RZA), the man who killed his father during a raid. Lino (David Belle) has just ruined 20 kilos of Tremaine’s supply and his ex-girlfriend Lola (Catalina Denis) has been taken hostage and strapped to a rocket holding a nuetron bomb aimed at the city. Now, Damien and Lino must join forces to save Lola, the citizens of Brick Mansions, and Detroit.
When filmed correctly, parkour makes for some of the most exciting action sequences put on film. District B13, Brick Mansions predecessor, may have been better directed by Pierre Morel — who has since gone on to direct the first Taken — but with Morel and Brick Mansions director Camille Delamarre both being Besson protégés, it’s no surprise that both versions are all killer, no filler. Unfortunately, for Mansions, there’s way too much quick-cut editing, along with an overuse of slo-mo shots that take you out of the moment. But at a brisk 90 minutes, the film flies by as effortlessly as Belle’s parkour.
A few moments of bloodless brutality keep the violence within its PG-13 constraints, allowing for optimal Walker-viewership, but the film has a huge sense of humor which goes a long way. RZA fares poorly throughout, only looking like he’s having fun in the last 10 minutes. But audiences looking for an action fix between Captain America: The Winter Soldier and next week’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will find plenty of it in Brick Mansions. Not to mention that Walker fans can enjoy seeing him on the big screen again while we wait for next summer’s Fast & Furious 7.
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