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Brick Mansions – Movie Review

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Brick Mansions – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

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The most annoying tendency of some modern action pictures is their inability to keep the camera still. It seems, in an attempt to try and give it a almost documentary look, directors feel the need to shake the camera. However, this merely results in a confusing headache that detracts from even the best of films. Brick Mansions is yet another picture that suffers from this issue, but it’s the least of its problems. This is an illogical attempt at a futuristic thriller that has no questions, no answers and some very questionable depictions of urban life. It’s hopeful that it could have the action scenes to fall back on, a good chunk being performed with the Parkour technique, but when those are as badly done as the screenplay, Brick Mansions becomes a tough sit.

Brick Mansions tries to present a quasi-dystopian future, where the lower class is divided from the rest of society and immediately, the plot and ideas become a convoluted mess. The filmmakers might be making a commentary on segregation and perceptions of race, but it’s handled in a way that instead comes off as somewhat offensive. When all of the African American characters are portrayed as stereotypical thugs, the point they might be making gets completely lost. That every single character is one-dimensionally written doesn’t help matters. There is no personality or any real character in any of the heroes and villains and it’s further reflected in the actors’ work. Paul Walker, in his last completed role, doesn’t convey any sense of the stakes at hand, though it was probably difficult to get a decent performance from the material and direction handed to him.

Parkour creator David Belle may be athletically fit, but his acting is a blank slate and his chemistry with Walker is non-existent. The film tries to portray a real growth and friendship between the two protagonists, but that doesn’t appear anywhere on the screen. The attempts at humour are particularly forced and are uninspired attempts to add levity to the picture. Rapper RZA is just as flat, keeping in the same registry through the entire running time and not giving any sense that his antagonist is an intimidating force within the Brick Mansions. Meanwhile, Ayisha Issa is only directed to snarl, snicker and act tough.

The story sends these characters through a witless script that should have been more simple than the overcomplicated plot they’re thrust into. The character motivations are presented through a load of exposition that surprisingly doesn’t even reveal that much. The screenplay contains too many plot contrivances and dues ex machinas, simply so the story can move forward. If the movie wasn’t ridiculous enough, the ending takes jarring plot twists to the extreme to the point of the tone even shifting suddenly to that of a political thriller. All the President’s Men, this is not. The action sequences should have been easy to fall back on, but they’re just as witless as the script. The first set piece where Belle jumps and smashes through an apartment building and various homes is the highlight of Brick Mansions. Director Camille Delamarre shoots it with a lot of energy, focusing on the impressive stunts and keeping the excitement level up.

For some reason, the other action scenes lack the same level of focus, like somebody else took over in the editing room and they replaced the director of photography not long into production. The camera constantly shakes and the editing is rapid and annoying, not allowing the Parkour to impress. This has become a bothersome element in action movies lately, where the director feels the need to film and edit the scenes so frantically, it becomes difficult to actually see and admire the handy work. Need for Speed may not have had the strongest story, but it deserved points for actually using a steadicam and allowing the audience to watch the stunts in all of their glory.

There’s a fun, if somewhat silly ‘90s action romp hiding somewhere in Brick Mansions, but it’s hard to find it within the too-ridiculous-for-its-own-good storyline, wooden acting and choppily edited action scenes. When it’s hard to even appreciate the Parkour heavy stunts, there’s a problem. Even worse are its attempts at social commentary, which come across as ill-advised and lack the smarts to pull them off. Rather than being an entertaining bit of escapism and strong send-off, Brick Mansions becomes an annoyance and an unfortunate final project for a talented young actor.

Review By: Stefan Ellison


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