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Energetic action scenes can’t save ‘Mansions’

5/1/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Paul Walker stars in “Brick Mansions.”
Photo courtesy of Europacorp Transfilm International Inc.
“Brick Mansions” is a stunningly stupid film, albeit one with a lot of manic energy and some good action scenes.

In the center of much of the action is Paul Walker, who tragically died after making this film. He was a charismatic performer whose talents will be remembered for movies other than this.

The plot of “Mansions’” is a mishmash of other dystopian-future movies, and the script makes a feeble attempt at social commentary. But mostly, any nonaction scene is one that could make you say “wow” — not in a good way. It’s the kind of “wow” Cleveland Indians announcer Tom Hamilton lets out when the team makes a costly error or fails to get a runner home from third with less than two outs. It’s the I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing “wow.”

“Mansions” takes us to the not-so-distant future of 2018, which looks pretty much like 2014 except with different license plates. (On the cars’ plates are QR codes, those squares with the dots that your cell phone can scan.) Detroit is not fairing well. Urban riots have caused the mayor of Detroit to close off its worst area, Brick Mansions, which has become a lawless cesspool of drugs and depravity. It has a nice diner, though.

Fighting back is the apparently indestructible Lino (David Belle), who wants to clean up Brick Mansions. With the combined skills of a gymnast and a mixed-martial arts champion, he’s taking on the Mansions’ crime lord, Tremaine (the rap and hip hop artist RZA). Tremaine’s henchmen and one henchwoman have difficulty stopping Lino due to their strategy of forgoing guns when they have him at close range. (At one point he escapes from their clutches by pretending to be incapacitated, an idea borrowed, to quote “The Simpsons” — “from every movie ever made.”)

One — and only one — Detroit policeman wants to throw himself into the fray. Damien Collier (Paul Walker) is sent undercover into the Mansions not just to stop Tremaine, but also to defuse a bomb. The device intermittently captures the attention of Collier and Lino, but most often it seems a diversion when there’s nothing else to occupy their time. If they can engage in a fight, either with the henchmen, some military guys or themselves, the bomb can wait.

The movie, which is a remake of a French film, can be enjoyed as you would an amusement park stunt show. Belle’s athleticism, falling from ceilings and through open windows with the greatest of ease, is impressive, and Walker shows his moves too. They go up against a giant (if not a giant, then a really big guy) in a scene that is “Brick Mansions” at its most cartoonish. When the behemoth is bested, all that’s missing are little birds tweeting over his head. Wow.

The movie, currently in theaters, is rated PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material.

Two Stars (out of four)


Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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