Movie review: Paul Walker deserved a better farewell

For the News-DemocratApril 24, 2014 

What It's About

This parkour throwaway can best be summed up as "Fast Feet and Furious Fists."

The last completed film of actor Paul Walker won't be remembered as particularly good, but "Brick Mansions" is dedicated to him in "loving memory," and for that reason, people will pay attention.

Unfortunately, the handsome hero's final effort follows a similar sad trajectory as others tragically cut down in their prime, that this swan song is not remotely in the same league as their best work -- as in Heath Ledger ("The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"), John Candy ("Wagons East"), and Natalie Wood "Brainstorm").

Walker, a likable leading man best known for the "Fast and Furious" franchise, was killed in a high-speed car crash Nov. 30. He was 40. An outpouring of goodwill for him makes this film tolerable.

"Brick Mansions" is an ultra-violent action picture that seems like one long chase scene. Set in dystopian Detroit in the near future, 2018, the corrupt city fathers want to get rid of the war-zone drug-infested housing projects and rebuild a shiny new development for a brighter future.

A remake of the French film "Banlieue 13," or "District 13," original screenwriters Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri return here as action specialists. The movie spotlights a street fighting style called parkour -- a slick, fluid, fast form of martial arts in some countries.

Undercover narcotics officer Damien Collier (Paul Walker) is out for vengeance, targeting Tremaine Alexander (RZA), the vicious crime lord who supposedly killed his hero cop father. But he must team up with convicted felon Lino (David Belle) on a covert mission. The best laid plans...


With clunky dialogue, the actors aren't given much to work with, to the point where there is unintentional laughter at times and groans at others.

The cartoonish characters speak in the most elementary language, and words are just to connect the dots between fights. Walker is clearly head-and-shoulders over everyone else, a pro among amateurs.

David Belle, who plays the agile French troublemaker Lino, is actually a parkour pioneer and stuntman, and he's an exciting presence.

What Works

Fast-paced, the film is in a hurry to get to its twisty conclusion, which turns out immensely unsatisfying, bordering on ridiculous. Therefore, the movie's brief run time is a blessing.

Director Camille Delamarre ("Transporter 3," "Taken 2") knows how to shoot action scenes, which are far superior to any scenes attempting character development.

What Doesn't Work

Poor Paul Walker. Just his presence makes you sad about how things turned out. When he's driving fast cars in the film, it's rather unsettling. What a shame. What a loss for fans.

Two stars out of four

Director: Camille Delamarre

Starring: Paul Walker, David Belle, the RZA

Rated: PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material

Length: 1:30

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