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Parkour, Dystopian Detroit, and Paul Walker's Final Gift to Us: "Brick Mansions" Review

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film Reviews | April 25, 2014 | Comments ()


In the near future, Detroit has become a nihilistic dystopia of crime and corruption. The city walls off the poor inner city, shuts down all public services to the area. Police do not enter the Brick Mansions, a no-man’s land run by violent gangs. Malicious government officials plan to wipe out the ghetto with a neutron bomb in order to build an extra fancy downtown. One honest cop stands in their way. The people call him Robocop Paul Walker.

This movie is absolutely as stupid as it sounds. It is the sort of story that a nine year old makes up with a bunch of mismatched toys after watching Robocop on the tail end of a marathon of Fast and Furious films intermixed with Jackie Chan flicks while high on cough syrup.

To say that the plot makes no sense and is hilariously stupid should go without saying, to elaborate further on it for the next few hundred words would rapidly become just cruel, like scattering thumbtacks in a circle around a blind cat.

So let’s focus on the positive.

First of all, it was only 90 minutes long.

(yes, I was tempted to just end the review right there).

Second, the film showcases David Belle, who spends the entire movie doing a French-Canadian Jackie Chan impression, doing ludicrous jumps and stunts all over the screen. Apparently he does Parkour without yelling Parkour while he does it, which I didn’t know was physically possible, given that ninety percent of what I know about Parkour is from that one scene of The Office like five years ago. And a borderline post-apocalyptic inner city wasteland is an exquisite environment for doing these stunts. Basically, the man is a human video game, and deserves a franchise of terrible movies of his own that revolve around him jumping on and off of things. Maybe they can reboot Gymkata with him in the lead.

Third, the movie actually passes the Bechdel test. Now, it only has two female characters, one of whom is dressed in less clothing and more leather than your average BDSM stripper, and who is holding the other one hostage and chaining her up and threatening her with razor blades and generally being terribly creepy. But, you know, they don’t talk about a man, they talk about how they’re going to kill each other. How progressive!

Fourth, Paul Walker has stubble and his hair dyed in the opening scenes while he’s undercover, and he looks strangely identical to Keanu Reeves.

Fifth, there is a major plot point involving duct taping a neutron bomb to a random surface-to-surface rocket that of course the head gang leader has mounted on his roof, and of course it makes sense to chain the protagonist’s girlfriend to the rocket. No one can possibly deny that these are logical developments.

Sixth, the final ten minutes takes bad plot to such an extraordinary level of hilarity that it’s like watching a two trains full of clowns and gasoline detonate in a heads-on collision. The big bad gangster (who has killed and kidnapped his way through the movie) is really a big softie and now is running for mayor! His chief henchman waves at passerbys as he helps plant trees in the neighborhood! Paul Walker now has a fancy car because of “the reward money”. What reward money? No one knows, but mom’s yelling that it’s time for bed, so the good guys win and now everybody’s rich! All because they TORE DOWN THIS WALL MR. GORBACHEV.

Seventh, Paul Walker’s Vans.

For the love of the money in your wallet that deserves better, do not pay money to see this film. It will be just as unimpressive in six months on TNT when you’re too lazy to figure out where the remote control hid itself this time. But it’s sort of a fitting coda to Paul Walker’s career: yet another atrocious movie that somehow manages to have just enough idiocy and charm to it to be far more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Ben

    " Apparently he does Parkour without yelling Parkour while he does it"

    Mother fucker doesn't do Pakour, mother fucker INVENTED pakour. Him and Sebastien Foucan (The bomb maker Bond chases at the begining of Casion Royale) basically created the entire concept.

  • Sean

    "In the near future, Detroit has become a nihilistic dystopia" You haven't been here in Detroit lately, have you?

    It has been that for more than 40 years.

  • That was my first thought as well. Good thing I scrolled down to see if someone else had already hit that.

  • BWeaves

    "Fifth, there is a major plot point involving duct taping a neutron bomb to a random surface-to-surface rocket that of course the head gang leader has mounted on his roof, and of course it makes sense to chain the protagonist’s girlfriend to the rocket."

    Didn't these people take a physics class? Everyone knows you chain the neutron bomb to the rocket but duct tape the girlfriend to the rocket. Geez, how to you expect it to fly straight to your target if it's all off kilter like that.

    This reminds me:

    Dr. Bunsen Honeydew: There. I have just placed on Gilda's forehead a single, teensy, weensy drop of Muppet's new super adhesive. Now we'll wait a moment for it to get tacky.
    Statler: What are we waiting for?
    Waldorf: For it to get tacky.
    Statler: Another first for this show.
    Waldorf: How's that?
    Statler: It's the first time we've had to wait for it to get tacky.

  • Sparky

    Why French-Canadian? Dude's straight-up French.

  • Because the character is specifically referenced as French-Canadian, and the story is set in Detroit right on the Canadian border.

  • Sparky

    That's hilarious. I'll have to ask some French-Canadians if he pulls the accent off.

  • On second thought, maybe it was French-Haitian, which doesn't make that much sense at all. But nothing in this movie makes sense. And it was definitely French-hyphen-something.

  • Balodek

    Half of this review seems to be covering District B13. Did they just reshoot it with Paul Walker?

  • Pretty much, yes.

  • Balodek

    I suppose the next step is to reshoot everything John Hughes did with Parkour!©, but the first person to touch Uncle Buck gets a drill to the knees.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Parkour Home Alone would be NUTS.

  • Jim

    Parkour Downton Abbey?

  • How do you think Bates got his limp?

  • TK

    Holy shit I would watch the fuck out of the Parkour Sixteen Candles.

  • Mrcreosote

    Parkour Back to the Future. Can you jump to 88 MPH?

  • Jericho Smith

    I'm confused. David Belle has 'a franchise of terrible movies of his own that revolve around him jumping on and off of things.'

    Is this that "Irony" thing I keep hearing about, yet is only truly understood by Alanis Morissette?

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    Right? SLW needs to do some research. You know, like a real professor would.

  • If you're referring to the District 13 movies, I'm well aware of them, I just consider them more a niche thing than a broad cheesy American action franchise.

  • cruzzercruz

    Well, isn't this a remake of them? So is this the broad American cheese?

  • BobbFrapples

    This is a remake of them. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt04...
    The names have changed to protect the foolish...

  • Jim

    And so they'd be in English because sub-titles are hard for people who say "Why would I need to read a book, I'm not in school any more."

  • Sara_Tonin00

    You had me a chaining the girlfriend to the rocket. I miss that kind of subtlety in my action films.

  • Repo

    Right though? The previews didn't hint at any rocket/neutron bomb/BDSM tomfoolery. Now I want to see it. Sounds absolutely ridiculous, like the parkour version of Torque.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Which will obviously be called Torquour.

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