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‘Brick Mansions’ proves to be yet another wasted opportunity in the action genre

Dystopian movie does not hold up to its similar-genre counterparts

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‘Brick Mansions’ proves to be yet another wasted opportunity in the action genre

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By Colby Shoup, Homestead HS, Fort Wayne, Ind.

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The recent resurgence in popularity of the dystopian film in the past five years thanks to “The Hunger Games” would be a welcome and healthy change in Hollywood, if any of the screenwriters behind these movies truly had anything interesting or new to say. Because of this unoriginality in the sub-genre, audiences have been getting movies like “Brick Mansions” in the place of insightful classics like “Brazil” and “1984.”

Based on a 2004 French film, “Brick Mansions” takes place in a not-too-different future, where the local government of Detroit has confined all criminals to neighborhoods called Brick Mansions. The most powerful of these criminals is the menacing Tremaine Alexander (played by famous rapper RZA), a drug dealer who steals a powerful bomb that, when activated, will demolish all of downtown Detroit. To stop him, the cops recruit Damian Collier (the late Paul Walker), a by-the-book cop who is about as interesting as a block of wood. To help him infiltrate the Brick Mansions and take down Tremaine, Collier recruits a rival of Tremaine’s named Lino (David Belle), a drug dealer who was recently incarcerated.

The two are resentful of one another at first, but end up bonding over a common vendetta against Tremaine, as the crime boss supposedly killed Collier’s father and has captured Dino’s girlfriend. In order to get their revenge and save the city, the two must work together to get through Tremaine and defuse the bomb in less than a day.

The tone of the movie is constantly being switched from cartoonish and ridiculous to serious and gritty, which is as irritating as it is confusing.”

Without spoiling anything, the government turns out to be just as twisted as Tremaine is, allowing for a variety of opportunities for great social and political commentary. Instead of taking advantage of these opportunities, screenwriters Luc Beeson, Bibi Naceri and director Camille Delamarre don’t seem to know what to do with them. The tone of the movie is constantly being switched from cartoonish and ridiculous to serious and gritty, which is as irritating as it is confusing.

The dialogue, written by two Frenchmen, is meant to mimic American street slang, which is an understandable choice. However, since Beeson and Naceri are not native to America, every attempt at slang reads like it was written by a child who doesn’t actually understand its meaning. This misunderstanding causes plenty of inadvertently funny scenes; the funniest of which being in the beginning of the movie when one of Tremaine’s henchmen actually refers to his boss as “The Big Dog.”

The actors make the most of the weak dialogue. Despite their efforts, all of the characters still feel like one dimensional clichés. Collier’s only motivation is that he wants revenge for his father’s death, which would be sufficient if he had any other human qualities. Since he doesn’t, Walker plays the character with a much worse version of the already extremely boring speaking style which was expected of Walker’s performances. RZA has an overbearing and threatening presence as Tremaine, but he delivers his lines without any emotion or inflection. David Belle gives the best and most authentic performance of the film as the down to Earth Lino, but even his delivery reeks of lack of direction from Delemarre.

The special effects, camera work, and stunts in “Brick Mansions” are by far the most entertaining part of the movie, but since the writing shows no signs of intelligent life, it’s hard to appreciate the aspects of the film that are done well. If some of the plot’s elements were handled by more creative people, “Brick Mansions” had potential to be great. Instead, the only take away movie goers will get is another lazy attempt at cashing in on the current popularity of dystopian films. People who are fans of Paul Walker or good stunt work may want to see “Brick Mansions” if they have nothing better to do, but anyone else has no business seeing this flick.

Rating: 5/10

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