Twitter Plot Summary: Paul Walker steps into future dystopian territory and beats up some bad guys. There’s a parkour chap as well. He’s French.
Opening with an impressive parkour-infused action sequence, Brick Mansions takes place in a dystopian future where a housing development is threatened with destruction by a conglomerate who want to give the area a facelift, and a criminal overlord who wants to launch a nuclear bomb. Given that this is the near future and set in Detroit, there’s the obvious link with Robocop that is never exploited. Perhaps for the better in the grand scheme of things, as Brick Mansions never feels comfortable outside of its very many action sequences.
After that opening sequence, where a man who looks like Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger shows us his moves, we’re introduced to the slightly maverick cop Damien Collier, played by Paul Walker. He’s due to go undercover inside the Brick Mansions estate, walled off so it bears more than a passing resemblance to John Carpenter’s New York. We need a Snake Plissken cameo alongside Robocop just for the sake of amusement, it seems.
Walker was never known for his extensive acting range, however the material here puts the emphasis on his action skills which is a fair trade. It’s a shame that his career and, obviously, his life were cut short, as there’s an indication in Brick Mansions that he’d hit upon a winning formula in terms of which films he was choosing to appear in. This might not be Shakespeare but it appeals to a very specific subset of the movie-going audience and he could have had a lucrative career exploiting that particular niche.
The action sequences are presented well, although there is perhaps too much emphasis on needlessly fancy camerawork, coming across as if director Camille Delamarre has been overdoing the sugary snacks in the editing suite. At least there are plenty of them in order to make up for the almost complete lack of story. If you removed the action sequences there would be nothing more than a paper shell left over – and nobody likes watching vacuous bags of nonsense. Unless you’re one of the many who enjoyed/endured Transformers: Age of Extinction of course.
There’s something equally as unsettling about the audio mix, where even when the characters are stood outside their voices echo as if they’re in a room designed to be the exact opposite of one of those soundproofed chambers. This is something you either acclimatise to or spend the rest of the film questioning the reasons behind it. Was it a particularly noisy location they’d chosen to shoot at? Did the person responsible for recording the live sound forget to turn the equipment on?
This is a world where much of the criminal underworld suffer from Stormtrooper Syndrome – namely that they couldn’t hit a very large fish in a very small barrel even if they had a laser guided missile for a weapon. Seriously, when it comes to shooting at the good guys they are more than hopeless. Visually, the walled-off Brick Mansions estate features an array of colourful characters whose dress sense seems one part Mad Max with one part District 9. This is certainly no bad thing.
Brick Mansions really is nothing more than style over substance, but sometimes you don’t need much else. For its lack of decent characterisation and wafer thin story, it is a relatively solid action film that gets by on its frequent moments of kinetic energy and somewhat insane plot.