'Brick Mansions': What the Critics Are Saying
The late Paul Walker headlines Camille Delamarre's crime-thriller remake with parkour veteran David Belle and Wu-Tang Clan's RZA.
Paul Walker's penultimate film and passion project Brick Mansions, out Friday, casts him as an undercover cop who teams with an ex-convict to save a dystopian Detroit from destruction. The English-language remake of the 2004 hit French film Banlieue 13 was written by Luc Besson and directed by Camille Delamarre, and also features RZA, while David Belle reprises his role as the ex-convict.
The crime thriller is expected to debut in the $8 million to $10 million range, and in honor of Walker's memory, Relativity and EuropaCorp have made a donation to Walker's charity, Reach Out WorldWide.
Read what top critics are saying about Brick Mansions:
The Hollywood Reporter's Bernard Besserglik said in his review that Besson is "adept as ever at recycling old material," though "generally the script, best described as functional, eschews wit or irony." With plenty of "fist-fights, shoot-outs, car chases and general mayhem that should satisfy hardcore action fans … the movie contributes nothing new to the genre, but disbelief is suspended willingly enough once the action gets up to speed." The plot is "given a nifty twist, but the attempt at a social message -- the importance of communal values, the cynicism of politicians -- rings hollow and adds nothing to the sum of human knowledge. But these considerations will not deter fans who will find plenty to please them in the stunts."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott called Brick Mansions "brawny, dumb and preposterous, it nonetheless comes tantalizingly close to being a high-impact allegory of race, class and real estate in a postindustrial, new-Gilded Age America." Despite a "crucial final twist more ridiculous than revelatory," Delamarre's "visual style, heavily indebted to the Grand Theft Auto video games, is appropriately rough and kinetic." Belle, one of the originators of the acrobatic art known as parkour, turns parts of the film into "a master class," and though RZA falls short as a villain, Walker "demonstrates why he will be missed. He brought quiet charisma to noisy movies and seemed to know instinctively just how seriously to take what he was doing."
The Los Angeles Times' Gary Goldstein declared it "a dumb and ugly action picture that works strictly as a reminder of the late actor's head-turning good looks and modest charisma … a dizzying mishmash of showy stunts, muddled narrative and some seriously risible acting and dialogue." The action sequences "are edited within an inch of their lives, adding more incoherence than thrills," the sociopolitical commentary via its twisty ending "only serves to make the preceding mayhem and plotting even less plausible than they already seemed," and the PG-13 rating seems light to Goldstein, given a "beheading and several uses of the N-word."
The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan called the American version of the French hit "watered-down," as the remake "suffers considerably from Walker’s obvious deficiencies as a physical performer" when it comes to the art of parkour in which Belle excels. Also, because of RZA's turn as villain and the film's final plot twist, "Besson sabotages the power of his tale, which requires starkly defined moral absolutes."
The Chicago Tribune's Roger Moore gave the film two stars, as the "A-level action/D-level plot is too typical of the lesser fare that Walker squeezed in between the increasingly popular, decreasingly intelligent Fast & Furious movies ... dumb, noisy junk and the best he could do in a career that never really took off." Still, he wrote of Walker's deadpan double-takes after Belle's parkour stunts, "Moments like that, even in a dumb movie, add a little sting to the loss of Walker's amiable, sincere screen presence -- a nice guy who always made a convincingly righteous dude, and an actor who wasn't above letting himself in on the laugh that a lot of his movies were."