Tag Archives: Luc Besson

Film Review: Brick Mansions


written by Michael Dequina

Brick Mansions

Even considering how eager Hollywood always is to remake a foreign language success, the idea of an American version of the 2004 French action thriller District 13 always seemed a bit foolish, for the key to its appeal in its native country and its cult fandom in the U.S. is directly and almost completely tied to the particular abilities of that film’s two stars, David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli.  Respectively the founder and a most skilled practitioner of the wall-climbing, roof-jumping urban athletic artform known as parkour, their gravity-defying feats in the action sequences energized and made distinctive what was otherwise a stock scenario of a forced-together mismatched pair battling baddies in a dystopian future setting.

To the credit of director Camille Delamarre, he has retained Belle for the English language remake, Brick Mansions, and the returning star delivers accordingly.  Belle proves to neither have aged in appearance nor general physicality in the last decade, nimbly navigating the walls and roofs of a derelict, dystopian Detroit in a more elaborate and explosive opening chase sequence than in the original film.  Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there.

This isn’t an issue of script faithfulness, for the ever-ubiquitous Luc Besson, who co-wrote the original, does the same (with regular collaborator Robert Mark Kamen) here, and geographical shift from Paris to Detroit aside, this film unfolds almost beat-for-beat identically.  To prevent a drug lord (RZA) from using a stolen neutron bomb, an undercover cop (Paul Walker) teams with a convict (Belle) to infiltrate the brick mansions of the title, a run-down, crime-ridden housing project community walled off from the rest of the city.

Brick-Mansions-Movie-PhotoThere are some Hollywood-ized adjustments, for better or worse but mostly inconsequential: as in the original, the crime boss holds a loved one of the Belle’s prisoner, but here it’s his girlfriend rather than sister; Besson makes the half-hearted socio-political commentary more overt; and, in a move that does work, RZA’s take on the crime boss is a far more refined and classy character unlike the original’s more conventionally thuggish type.  But a major ingredient of the original film’s parkour-powered stunts was the “tag team” element of Belle and Raffaelli displaying their abilities in tandem as well as apart.  Needless to say, with Walker, that element is lost, in its place a fair amount of what the late Fast and the Furious franchise star was best known for: fast driving, which doesn’t always fit so well with the close quarters required for Belle’s feats and fights, not to mention a concept-confined setting.

What’s left is the basic–in every sense scenario told much like it was back in ’04, which gradually fizzles out in anticlimactic fashion here much like it did a decade ago, with Belle’s balletic badassery and RZA’s amusingly eccentric criminal cooking connoisseur only going so far to enliven an underwhelming whole.

Michael Dequina


Brick Mansions, the rise of the RZA, and the art of Parkour

written by Lee Pinkerton


rzaThe RZA, aka Robert Diggs, is best known to hip-hop fans as founding member and super-producer behind the 90’s hip-hop collective The WuTang Clan.

Hip-hop magazine The Source placed him on its list of the 20 greatest producers in their twenty-year history. He also made the “Elite 8” in the search for The Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All Time by Vibe and  NME placed him on their list of the 50 Greatest Producers Ever.

But in recent years he has been making moves in Hollywood. After supporting roles in several movies, including  American Gangster, Ghost Dog,  and Repo Men, he made his directorial debut is for the film he co-wrote and in which he plays the title role, The Man with the Iron Fists, which also starred Russell Crowe.  Set in 19th century China, the story followed a series of lone warriors who are forced to unite to defeat a common foe and save their home of Jungle Village.

This year he takes a starring role in the movie Brick Mansions playing drug king-pin Tremaine opposite Paul Walker as undercover cop Damien Collier (in his last movie role before his untimely death).

The movie is set in a dystopian Detroit, where abandoned brick mansions left from better times now house only the most dangerous criminals. Unable to control the crime, the police constructed a colossal containment wall around the area to protect the rest of the city.  An undercover cop  and an ex-convict team up to defeat a deadly drug kingpin’s (RZA) plans to devastate the city.

The movie also stars David Belle as ex-covinct Lino .  As well as being an action movie star Belle is a film choreographer, stunt coordinator and the founder of Parkour, which consists of moving quickly and efficiently in any environment, using only the abilities of the human body. Belle was introduced to his acting career in a meeting with Hubert Koundé (“La Haine”).  David was then contacted by Luc Besson to co-star as lead actor with Cyril Raffaelli in the French action movie District 13, (on which Brick Mansions is based) followed by the sequel District 13: Ultimatum.


The Rza and Paul Walker in a scene from Brick Mansions










In Brick Mansions RZA plays Tremaine. He’s a drug lord, but considers himself a leader of the community. RZA spoke about how he got into playing the character.

“When Luc Besson wrote this character I always wondered where he got that energy from. But when I started becoming the character, I started figuring it out. Environment makes us how we are. As an actor you’ve gotta find that. I said what makes him different than his boys is that he has knowledge. He’s not the biggest, he’s not the ugliest, he’s not the typical monster. Why is he the leader? This n****’s got to be the smartest. For me as an actor, that’s where I figured him out.”

You can see the accumulated talents of Paul Walker, David Belle and the RZA when Brick Mansions is released in the UK on May 2nd.

Lee Pinkerton