We’re running out of Paul Walker movies. Brick Mansions, directed by Camille Delamarre and set in a dystopian Detroit where the roughest neighborhood’s been walled up from the rest of the city, is the last feature the late actor completed — he died in the midst of shooting Fast & Furious 7, which will see his brothers come in to complete the film.
Though Brick Mansions is ludicrous and doesn’t make a lick of sense, it’s still fun, and more than that, it’s a reminder of the type of role Walker has always done so well. Here’s everything you need to know about the actor’s penultimate movie.
3. It’s a remake of a French movie inspired by real unrest.
Luc Besson wrote and produced both the 2004 French action film District B13 and its remake Brick Mansions. But the difference between the remake and the original is that the latter was set in a near-future version of one of the troubled suburbs outside Paris, which are known for their unrest and high levels of unemployment and poverty, and which have been home to riots. In District B13, which takes place in the now not-so-futuristic year of 2013, the most crime-ridden neighborhood has been walled off, with police checkpoints preventing anyone from leaving.
Brick Mansions moves the action to 2018 Detroit, where housing projects have been similarly sealed off and are dominated by drug-dealing gangsters, the chief of them being Tremaine (RZA). The bankrupt city, with its areas of desolation and its difficulties maintaining services, makes a decent Americanized fit for the story’s broad social themes, though the remake mainly pays them lip service. And a plotline about the mayor wanting to get rid of Brick Mansions (which is also the name of the projects) in order to build a new luxury development reads as strange — Detroit doesn’t exactly seem short on available real estate. Even the movie, maybe due to budget limitations, feels underpopulated.
4. It involves parkour.
Both District B13 and Brick Mansions star David Belle, who is one of the founders of parkour, the holistic movement-centric training discipline that he and two others developed from military obstacle course training, and that’s since turned up in bigger movies like Casino Royale and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
He’s not the world’s most naturally charismatic actor, but he is a man who, reprising his first leading role after a decade, still seems unencumbered by things like gravity, leaping up the sides of buildings and vaulting over stairwells, doing backflips over baddies and bouncing off walls with incredible athleticism. Belle is apparently indestructible and ageless, and even manages to counter some of Brick Mansions’ hyperactive editing, in which no shot seems to run longer than half a second.
In the original film, Belle was partnered with fellow parkour practitioner and stuntman Cyril Raffaelli. But in the remake, in which he plays Lino, Belle is paired with Paul Walker, who isn’t really one for using the world as his own personal obstacle course. Walker gets his own style of action sequence, automotive and otherwise, but the best scene in both the original and the remake is the opening one in which Belle first shows off his skills by eluding dozens of guys sent to take him down.
5. It has too many main characters.
While Belle was the main attraction in District B13, Walker’s is the most famous face in Brick Mansions, and the film beefs up the part with more backstory, including the in-no-way-necessary introduction of the character’s grandfather. Then there’s RZA, playing the kind of bad guy who pipes heroin into the area and shoots one of his underlings just to make a point (and good underlings are hard to find!), but is also allowed to be the voice of the disenfranchised, just hustling to get by in an unfair world.
Each of them seems to feel he’s the hero of the story, while the movie just comes across as undecided. But if you’re going to watch Brick Mansions in any way other than as it was really meant to be watched (i.e., on cable while nursing a hangover on a Sunday afternoon), it’s for Walker — Belle’s stunts are better shot in the original, which is currently streaming on Netflix (alongside its sequel).
6. It’s a reminder of why you’ll miss Paul Walker.
Brick Mansions is a bittersweet reminder of Walker’s gifts as an action movie lead. Playing undercover cop Damien, Walker shows off his underappreciated ability to utterly commit to dialogue, no matter how ridiculous, and he demonstrates unexpected comedic timing in his bickering with Belle. A scene in which Lino effortlessly leaps through a tiny space between a ceiling and wall when the two men are on the run and Damien stutters to a halt behind him, bemused and with no idea how to follow, earns a laugh with only Walker’s expression. And when Walker gets behind the wheel for a car chase sequence, it’s proof that no one gives better “determined driving face.”
Brick Mansions is an absurd B movie, but those are where Walker’s done his best work. The Daniel Day-Lewises of the world get the acting plaudits, but there’s something to be said for a guy who, upon learning about an earthshaking conspiracy, is able to say a line like “Joke’s on me” and mean it. He was one of those guys, and they’re few and far between.
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