By Dustin Brewer
At first, I thought a review of the film “Brick Mansions” would be enough to get all my thoughts of it out there but by the end credits, it was clear that I’d have to dig a little deeper. Spoilers ahead.
What do you get when you make a PG-13 version of “The Raid” and “Dredd” with a plot stolen from both as well as “Robocop”?
Within five minutes, all three of those films will be firmly planted in your mind; the “plot” (those five minutes in the beginning are about all you need to know story-wise) centers on Detroit in 2018 and the mayor of the town wants to build something new, but there’s something in the way. A place where crime and poverty is high (ala “Robocop”) in a prison-like section of the town called “Brick Mansions” (ala “Dredd”) where crime-lord Tremaine Alexander (played by the RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan) rules and everything else is run-down and long gone.
We first meet Lino (David Belle) – a man in possession of a ton of cocaine with people after him – as he ruins the blow in a bathtub with water and bleach and begins his escape from the thugs in pursuit.
Here is where comparisons to “the Raid: Redemption” will be made; Lino is a goddamn parkour master and he escapes from them with a series of ridiculous maneuvers culminating in him diving off a roof as a grenade explodes behind him.
Damien (Paul Walker) is an undercover narcotics cop who, after we’re introduced to him, is quickly hanging off a car being shot at, somehow avoiding hundreds of bullets flying from every-which-way.
We know from the previews for the film that they’re destined to team-up, not by choice, but from the fact that both of them are chasing the same man: Alexander.
For Lino, Alexander has kidnapped his (possibly estranged, who the fuck knows with this shit) girlfriend Lola in retaliation for Lino’s destruction of 20 kilograms of cocaine.
For Damien, he’s sent by the Detroit mayor and other high-ranking officials to infiltrate Brick Mansions and diffuse a neutron bomb that was stolen and has only 10 hours until it detonates, and destroys everything. But it’s more than that; Alexander killed Damien’s father, a cop as well and despite his grandfathers’ insistence that he’ll quit smoking cigarettes if Damien quits risking his life to get Alexander, it’s clear that Damien’s quest for revenge is too great to simply stop. Lino and Damien refuse to trust each other at first and continually try to screw each other in favor of their own needs.
Is it sounding cliched yet? Good.
From there, the “twists” grow more and more ridiculous and plot points and character development are dropped by the wayside in favor of stunts, parkour, funny quips and frantic editing.
That’s about all you need to know in terms of what happens but to give you an idea of just how ridiculous this movie gets, here are a few things I noticed throughout.
“Brick Mansions” Observations-
- The film starts with a large focus on cocaine. Lino has a giant briefcase of it and Alexander’s men are after him for it. Even Damien is first introduced undercover busting a distributor of cocaine. After those first 10 minutes though? There’s no mention of cocaine again! The whole reason RZA kidnapped Lola is so he can get revenge for the ruining of cocaine, but nope, never mentioned again.
- Lino is covered in tattoos, one of which is a scorpion on his chest. We know this because for a good 3/4 of the film, he’s shirtless or close to it but at the end, he’s standing shirtless talking to Damien and Lola and the scorpion is on the other side of his chest! How can it be missed on a character that was shirtless almost the entire time??
- At one point, the RZA turns to the camera while talking to Damien and Lino about selling the bomb back and says “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” (in reference to ‘C.R.E.A.M.’- one of Wu Tang’s best known songs) and then he winks. I almost choked with how hard I laughed at this. It’s up there with Ice Cube in “Ride Along” saying “All in all I gotta say, today was a good day.”
- Tremaine Alexander is a backwards name. Who names someone Tremaine? Alexander Tremaine on the other hand, that’s a name that’ll inspire some fear on the streets.
- I read on IMDB that David Belle speaks with such a thick accent that understanding him was next to impossible. To remedy this, they apparently brought in the man, the myth, the legend- Vincent Diesel to re-dub all of Lino’s lines. There’s no mention in the credits or special thanks and it doesn’t really sound like him except for a spot here or there. Not going to lie though, I legitimately started leaning in when he’d talk to try and hear if it was Vinny D.
- Alexander has a neutron bomb that he got by hijacking a military truck, then, he reveals he has an old Russian missile that he’s strapped the bomb to, and it’s aimed out of Brick Mansions at the heart of Detroit.
- He shows Paul Walker this, and then tells David Belle to look through a telescope; where he sees his girlfriend being tied-up via steel chain to the rocket as well. It’s so “Looney Tunes” that it hurts.
- By the end, for reasons that are too convoluted to even begin to explain, it’s revealed that the mayor has been behind this whole thing with the hope that Damien will arm the bomb, thinking he’s diffusing it, leveling Brick Mansions and letting the mayor begin construction on his new park or mall or whatever the hell it is he’s trying to make.
- After this is revealed, Alexander goes legitimate and begins campaigning to become the new mayor. This is possibly the most ludicrous story shift of them all because in just the 90 minutes the movie has been on, RZA shoots a ton of henchmen and kidnaps an innocent girl…FROM HER JOB IN FRONT OF A DINER FULL OF PEOPLE. Not to mention all the crime he’s been overlording prior to. If there’s a journalist with just a fraction of the insight as Woodward or Bernstein, the smear campaign possibilities are endless!
- Lino, Damien and Alexander team up once they realize who really orchestrated the scheme. Again, no mention is made that Lino and Damien just killed the shit out of 100s of henchmen working for Alexander or that they ruined his prized Mustang in a car chase that’s sole purpose was to put Walker behind the wheel to evoke “Fast & Furious” memories. Bygones be bygones I suppose.
- Keeping with bygones, Damien is convinced pretty quickly that Alexander actually didn’t kill his father, but that his father was betrayed by his partner, shot and left for dead on Alexander’s doorstep to frame him.
- That turns out to be exactly what happened.
- RZA finds out that Walker is a cop and immediately begins saying “I’m about to shoot the sheriff and the deputy.” He says it probably a dozen more times in about an hour.
But above all else, the best thing in this entire movie:
- After the hijacking of the bomb, RZA opens the briefcase it’s in to reveal what they actually just stole. Opening it activates the countdown, to which RZA stares blankly and says, “Yo, what the fuck man?” in a voice that only he can do.
This is the kind of movie that exist to be watched by a group of people late one night when plot need not apply and all they want is entertainment value for the sake of entertainment value.
It should be noted that there is a touching tribute to Paul Walker at the end of the film. “Brick Mansions” is actually the last film that Walker completely finished filming (he died in November of 2013 before he was done shooting “Fast 7”) and while it isn’t a strong film or a juicy character for him to play, he does play the part well. Essentially playing the straight man observing Belle’s parkour stunts in shocked awe, he’s able to generate laughs in his responses to the increasing madness similar to the chemistry he and Vin Diesel share in the “Fast” films.
He won’t win any posthumous Oscars for “Brick Mansions” but the entertainment that he was able to provide through the “Fast” films and movies like “Brick Mansions” is something that few have been able to do nearly as well, or as successfully. Fortunately, we have some time until “Fast 7” comes out in 2016, so there’s plenty of time to get your tissues ready to bid him a proper final goodbye.