Reboots. Remakes. US adaptations of foreign films. Hollywood is plagued with them these days, and the bad (I’m looking at you, Spike Lee’s Oldboy) far outweigh the good (True Lies and The Departed are great examples). Has Tinsel Town really become so pompous and lazy that they resort to rehashing the same stories, sometimes shot-for-shot, just because they believe American audiences don’t want to watch older films and/or subtitles? I can see the pitch room now…
Studio: “We need a summer blockbuster!”
Producer: “Jurassic Park made a ton of money…”
Studio: “The teens are clamoring for a Scarface-esque crime thriller!”
Producer: “Why don’t we just remake Scarface?”
Studio: “How about something that we can do action figure and video games tie-ins with… We need the faces of our heroes to be plastered on every billboard and Burger King soda cup in this country!”
Producer: “Let’s just redo Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No one will even remember.”
*grabs a bullhorn* Hey Hollywood– stop robbing everyone of their nostalgia and get creative for once!!! *steps off of soapbox, sits down at computer and starts the review*
Brick Mansions is a US remake of the 2004 French action flick, District B13. The straightforward story revolves around Leito (David Belle), an honest man living in the quarantined, crime lord-ruled District 13 of Paris in the near future. Leito doesn’t tolerate drugs in his neighborhood, and makes enemies with the local gangs as a result of his vigilante approach to cleaning up the streets. When the crime lords threaten the city with a stolen bomb that can kill over two million people if detonated, Capt. Damien Tomaso, a cop with his own brand of justice, is sent in to diffuse the situation. Working together, Leito and Damien fight to defeat the mob, but uncover that everything is not as it seems in the process. Banlieue 13, at its core, is a fun, albeit derivative, excuse for its star, David Belle, to run around performing ridiculously awesome Parkour stunts, kicking ass and taking names (it’s on Netflix if you’re interested). Brick Mansions is literally… the same… exact… movie in English, set in Detroit. Paul Walker steps in as the undercover cop, David Belle reprises his role as Leito, and RZA is crime boss Tremaine. The result? A carbon copy that barely passes as watchable.
First, the editing. It’s as if Tony Scott and Zack Snyder had a baby, then taught him how to use Final Cut. The sweeping camera speeds up with the action, slows down for the impact, then cuts so fast that you can barely understand what’s going on. Even at its frantic speed, the action cannot cover up the glaring plot holes and ludicrous dialogue laden in Brick Mansions, written by Luc Besson, the same writer for District B13. When the pace does let up, it’s for close-ups of Paul Walker, who was a serviceable action star (RIP) and does his best to keep Brick Mansions from staying in B-movie territory for too long. David Belle leads the action, but because all of his lines are dubbed, the camera never hangs on him for too long. RZA has some fun with his villain role, even referencing Wu-Tang lyrics as he winks at the audience. The rest of the cast seems to have been extras that they decided to give lines to– it’s that bad.
See the original, District B13, for a younger David Belle doing crazier stunts. If you’re a Paul Walker completist, at least wait for the rental. We can not and should not encourage these remakes & reboots with our hard-earned money. David Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Brick Mansions is not.