Brick Mansions is an English-language remake of Pierre Morel’s 2004 French actioner District 13 (which got a 2009 sequel, District 13: Ultimatum). Morel’s movie, written and produced by Luc Besson, was itself heavily indebted to a pair of John Carpenter’s early pictures, Escape From New York and Assault On Precinct 13, with the latter a loose, urban remake of Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo. Who says there are no new ideas?
Again scribbled (seemingly in crayon) and produced by Besson, the set-up is pretty much identical, transposed from Paris to Detroit. The year is 2018, and the titular inner-city slum has been walled off and left to rot, its inhabitants deprived of schools, hospitals and, judging from the rodents, a decent exterminator.
Only now Detroit’s right-wing mayor has to take notice, for a nuclear device has fallen into the hands of Brick Mansions’ crime lord, Tremaine (RZA). The only chance of retrieving it as the clock ticks down is to send in the uneasy duo of an undercover cop (Paul Walker) and ex-con (the original’s David Belle, reprising his role).
This is the late Walker’s last completed film and there’s something sad, surreal and inescapably ghoulish about seeing him on screen, especially during the numerous car chases and smashes. Asked to keep stride with Belle, one of the founders of parkour, he makes a decent fist of it, punching out endless foot soldiers as he hurtles through grimy streets, scales buildings and vaults from roof to roof.
Walker’s helped, of course, by the blitzkrieg cutting, though the chopped-up action and gimmicky camera flourishes only get in the way of watching Belle do what he does best – which certainly isn’t acting (especially in English).
The many freerunning sequences should satisfy action junkies coming down from The Raid 2, but Camille Delamarre’s remake face-plants in all other areas. His next movie is Transporter 4. Who says there are no new ideas?
Favouring vitality over originality, this needless remake of District 13 comes with fleet-footed sequences but plenty of stumbles, and strains far too hard to be ‘cool’.