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Susan Granger's review of 'Brick Mansions'

Published 11:57 am, Saturday, May 17, 2014
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Primarily notable as one of "Fast and Furious" Paul Walker's last film roles before he was killed in high-speed car crash in 2013, this recycled French thriller was adapted by Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri from the 2004 French film "District B13" and helmed by first-time director Camille Delamarre, who edited Besson's "Taken 2," "Colombiana" and "Transporter 3."

Set in 2018 in dystopian Detroit, dangerous criminals have taken up residence in dilapidated buildings known as Brick Mansions. Unable to control crime within that housing project, the police have constructed a colossal, 40-foot containment wall to protect the rest of the city. After busting a drug ring headed by George the Greek (Carlo Rota), earnest undercover narcotics cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker) is dispatched to infiltrate the Mansions to defuse a nuclear bomb that Tremaine Alexander (Wu-Tang Clan's RZA) has hidden there. Tremaine is the gangster kingpin whom Damien blames for his cop father's death.

There's a shady redevelopment project and Tremaine threatens to detonate Motor City. Tremaine's only ally is ex-con Lino Dupree (David Belle), who grew up in the Mansions and whose ex-girlfriend Lola (Catalina Denis) is being held hostage by Tremaine.

If the basic concept sounds familiar, it is. Remember John Carpenter's "Escape from New York" (1981) starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken?

Actor David Belle is known as the co-founder of the acrobatic martial art called "parkour," involving body momentum, like running, jumping and/or climbing along a particular route, most often in a city, nimbly trying to avoid physical obstacles in the quickest, most efficient way possible.

So there are a number of action-packed chase and fight sequences, particularly when Collier and Lino take on a seven-foot behemoth known as the Yeti (Robert Maille). For that, also credit stunt coordinator Michel Julienne ("Transporter 2," "Iron Man 2," "Taken"), the son of Remy Julienne, the French pioneering stunt driving performer and motocross champion.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Brick Mansions" is a kinetic 3. Think of it as Cirque du Detroit, a showcase for stuntmen.