Brick Mansions (2014)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Brick Mansions</strong> (2014)

(On Cable TV, March 2015)  Action-hero actor Paul Walker didn’t get much respect while he was alive, but his untimely death in late 2013 did much to make critics re-evaluate his solid everyman persona and how he could almost singlehandedly raise the level of even the most hum-drum production.  Brick Mansions is a good example of his skills: While the film itself isn’t much more than a routine americanized remake of French action thriller Banlieue 13, (starring parkour legend David Belle in the same role than in the original), it does seem a bit better than it is thanks to an earnest, core-persona performance by Walker.  The parkour action seems dialed-down from the original (Bell is almost a decade older, and Walker is no specialist) but the film throws in a car chase and a few other action beats to keep things interesting.  The plot, with its walled-off city and nuclear redevelopment plot, barely made sense in the French original and seems even more ludicrous on American soil, but that’s to be expected with Luc Besson writing the script.  Still, a few interesting performances are worth mentioning: Aside from Walker and Belle’s turns as protagonists, RZA is fine as a crime lord and Montréal-born Ayisha Issa makes a striking impression as a capable henchwoman.  Otherwise, much of the film blurs into an indistinct mass of running, gunplay, fights and chases.  Walker may not have been a fine dramatic actor, but he was exceptional at playing a likable action hero, and it’s in mediocre movies like this one that this talent is best appreciated. 

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