Brick Mansions is a crumbling mess


If you go willingly into a Luc Besson production, you know what to expect: cartoonish bad guys (with at least one oversized thug), c reepy French actors miscast in American roles, and a string of outlandish chase scenes and fight sequences. His latest is all of that, wallowing in the same depravity that finds its visual expression in the garish cinematography and lurid direction that marks many of the films bearing his producer imprimatur.

But Brick Mansions is an especially graceless and ugly addition to the canon. (It’s also a remake of another Besson film, 2004’s District 13). If not for the presence of the late Paul Walker (the Fast and the Furious series), it would hardly be worth mentioning except to say that it well and truly sucks out loud.

Like its forbears, Brick Mansions is defined by its own pose, cynicism and obviousness. When we’re introduced to the film’s drug-dealing overlord (RZA), he’s cooking a family recipe while dressed like he might, at any moment, get the call to go clubbing. The implication is that, deep down, he’s a good-hearted family man – the contrived set-up for a bit of late-film rehabilitation that’s as ridiculous as the rest of the movie.

Walker’s cop has two reasons to go after RZA: He believes he killed his father in the line of duty, and he’s sitting on a nuclear device. To get his man, Walker must enter the brick mansions of the title: squalid apartment buildings that have been walled off from the rest of Detroit (cinema’s punching bag of a city that has come to represent the worst urban decay in the U.S.).

Assisting Walker is Lino (David Belle), a resident who wants to put the drug dealers out of business and excels at turning the dilapidated tenements into his parkour playhouse. (Belle is the founder of parkour, that fun-to-watch, obstacle-defying discipline, and he gets to show off his moves during an extended sequence early on that is the best thing the movie has to offer.) Such is Lino’s skill, you have to wonder why he doesn’t just parkour himself into a better zip code.

But even that’s a compromised pleasure, as the action sequences have been filmed to create a grainy, high-speed, strobe-y effect that is painful to look at, especially as they are part of individual shots that have been quick-cut to disorienting effect. Even as it’s in a rush to bypass storytelling and logic, Brick Mansions makes the time for perversions like the scenes between a kidnap victim and her twisted female tormentor.

The movie was directed by Camille Delamarre, whose experience includes editing work on Besson’s Taken 2 and Colombiana.

Scroll to read more Events & Film articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]