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28616Quad_Final.indd

D: Camille Delamarre / 90m

Cast: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA, Gouchy Boy, Catalina Denis, Ayisha Issa, Bruce Ramsay, Richard Zeman, Andreas Apergis, Carlo Rota, Frank Fontaine

In the not-too-distant future, Detroit has erected a wall around an area known as Brick Mansions.  Ruled over by crime boss Tremaine Alexander (RZA), this ghettoised area is full of drugs and guns and gang members (but not, it seems, any ordinary folk).  When the Mayor (Ramsay) decides that Brick Mansions has to be replaced by a brand new commercial development, he concocts a plan that involves sending undercover cop Damien Collier (Walker) into Brick Mansions to retrieve and “disarm” a hijacked bomb that could destroy the entire area.

On the inside, Alexander is having his own problems.  One of his drug shipments has been stolen by Lino (Belle) (and for no other reason than because the script needs him to).  When Lino proves too elusive to capture, Alexander has his ex-girlfriend Lola (Denis) kidnapped in retaliation.  He tries to rescue her but ends up in jail where Collier engineers a meeting with him and then tries to use him as a way of finding the bomb.  They form an uneasy alliance, and go after Alexander and the bomb together.

Brick Mansions - scene

As unnecessary remakes go, Brick Mansions gets by on its high-impact action scenes – expertly crafted and assembled by Delamarre and the movie’s stunt team – and the still impressive parkour abilities of Belle (who starred in the original movie, Banlieue 13 (2004), and doesn’t look a day older).  Beyond these elements, though, the movie pays lip service to plotting, characterisation, consistency and credibility, and merely jumps from one action sequence to the next with a minimum of fuss or subtlety.

The performances range from so-so (Belle, who has only the one facial expression) to trying (Walker, unable to create a character out of nothing), to embarrassing (RZA – when will someone tell him he can’t do menacing?).  The rest of the cast struggle with roles so under-developed they don’t even reach the level of being generic, and Luc Besson’s script (adapted from his co-written original) further handicaps everyone by relying on the kind of dialogue that sounds like it’s been badly translated from the original French.  While it’s true that Banlieue 13 isn’t perfect, it’s still the much better movie, and all Brick Mansions does is prove it.

Rating: 4/10 – a movie where acting was clearly not a requirement, Brick Mansions revels in its many patent absurdities; as brain-dead a movie as you’re likely to see all year but saved from being a complete loss by its well-staged action sequences.