Let’s get one thing out in the open right away. Nobody would give a damn that Brick Mansions exists if Paul Walker hadn’t died. You know why I know this? Because I just watched the movie, and I can barely think of anything noteworthy to say about it except that he was in it, and even then I would likely have only made a mental note that this was the guy from The Fast and the Furious and likely wouldn’t have even mentioned it. But no, Paul Walker’s death was sensationalized when he died in a car accident last winter, right in the middle of what some would call the height of his career, starring in enough action films that were either completed or near enough to completion that he has a decent-sized postmortem filmography. And yeah, I’ll give the guy credit that he knew how to play a normal everyman amongst larger-than-life action heroes, but that was pretty much the breadth of his acting ability. He was a character actor that played one character that the young male demographic could identify with, but I didn’t particularly identify with him, so his loss didn’t hit me very hard.
So why did I devote an entire paragraph just there to explaining my ambivalence to Paul Walker? Well, as I said earlier, Paul Walker is perhaps the most noteworthy thing about this movie. Brick Mansions is a very generic action flick, and it’s pumped so full with fight scenes and car chases that it takes a full thirty minutes to actually establish what the main conflict of the film is. In translation, that means that the film’s plot is so flimsy that it had to devote an entire third of its runtime to mindless filler in order to bring itself to feature length runtime standards. And absolutely none of those fights or chases are memorable in the slightest, resorting to sequences that have been done in so many movies before and will be done again by lazy filmmakers until the end of time.
I suppose I should mention that the film co-stars David Belle, a renowned parkour stuntman, as a convict with aims to rescue his girlfriend from a slum overlord. Belle is quite good at what he does, sliding around opponents like some sort of human snake and jumping around with unbelievable agility. That said, though, he’s not much of an actor, which shows even in the cliché-ridden role with which he’s charged. Walker brings his usual self to his role as a cop with a vendetta against the overlord, but that’s again just slipping into a role that we’re all-too-comfortable with.
The one thing this film does to try and differentiate itself from the generic mold is that it props itself up as a message piece, taking place in an allegorical, near-future Detroit where the classes have been literally separated by a concrete wall and the rich let the poor kill each other with a cold indifference. Even if this message is more than a little unsubtle, it could have made for a workable movie if it had been incorporated into the storytelling. Instead, it serves as a backdrop for a traditional damsel-in-distress narrative, and the blatant symbolism of it all is practically shouted at the audience in the last five minutes, seemingly in the hopes that it will come off as a deeper and more intellectual film than it actually is.
Instead, what we have here is a bland, forgettable action romp that will only be remembered because it was one of Paul Walker’s final performances. Sentimentality can only carry a film so far though, and if that’s the only leg this film has to stand on, then that’s a very sorry looking tripod.
Do you have an opinion on Paul Walker? Am I too hard on the guy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.