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

By Alexander Joenks | Film | April 25, 2014 |

By Alexander Joenks | Film | April 25, 2014 |

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 You can email him here and order his novel here.