Brick Mansions Review: Par for the Kourse

Brick Mansions, the remake of French Parkour movie District B13, is a perfectly entertaining vehicle for more Parkour. It is based closely on the French film’s plot with a few different twists that I won’t spoil. It is not the emotional viewing experience the Fast & Furious 7 will be, mainly because Walker completed this film so we won’t be picking out every scene that’s completed by doubles. It also doesn’t have a funeral scene which we already know Fast 7 has. That will be an emotional experience I welcome, by the way, but this was just Walker and Parkour inventor David Belle having fun.

Dino (Belle) lives in Brick Mansions, a walled off segment of Detroit that has become a crime haven. Dino makes it his mission to clean up Brick Mansions by robbing druglords and destroying their product. Tremaine Alexander (RZA) gets back at Dino by kidnapping his girlfriend (Catalina). It was his sister in the French movie, but that’s not really one of the new twists. I guess they thought Americans wouldn’t rescue family, only hot lovers.

Exclusive Interview: David Belle explains the principles of Parkour and says he gives a better performance in the American remake.

Damien Collier (Walker) is an undercover cop sent into Brick Mansions to recover a bomb, and get the gangster who killed his father on the side. If this sounds like familiar territory for Walker, I guess B13 ripped off Brian O’Conner in the first place. Damien has to earn Dino’s reluctant trust so they can team up against Tremaine. Damien has even been so obsessed with Tremaine that he’s made a yarn chart, which is something they do in movies but I still don’t know what it means. Why would you tie a string of yarn between thumbtacks? How does that tell you about what’s connected and how?

For all the plot summary required above, Brick Mansions is essentially a silent film. The broad strokes dialogue is the closest we can probably get to silent film in an age where theaters require movies facilitate their high tech sound equipment. You can totally catch that Dino is a rebel making trouble for Tremaine, and Damien is an outsider and sometimes Dino works with Damien and sometimes they bicker. Considering most of the dialogue is ADR anyway, probably to facilitate Belle’s English, it’s barely a speaking film. Yet it’s played with total sincerity, because it’s awesome. It’s classical stuff and refreshingly unpretentious about it. It’s overwrought, with bad guys falling to their deaths in slow motion and Damien avenging his dead father. Considering they refer to a politician’s “constituaries,” I’m not hung up on the quality of dialogue.

Exclusive Interview: The RZA reveals the origin of the song he wrote for his Brick Mansions co-star, Paul Walker.

Belle does real Parkour and he’s smooth and elegant. A lot of the scenarios of the chases are the same but it’s new choreography. The beats are similar, but Dino swings from different pieces of the environment. Walker could fight too. He’s no Cyril Raffaelli but he knew how to sell a movie fight. He does the steering wheel fight from the French movie convincingly and his opening undercover mission has its own unique moves.

Brick Mansions is way better than the French sequel District B13: Ultimatum, which was surprisingly light on martial arts. There’s a little less random Parkour in the middle, but the villain characters are more outrageous and it’s always fun, always on the move. Unfortunately any sequel will have to be Belle alone or with a new American partner, but it’s about time David Belle had his own Parkour vehicle anyway. 

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Best Episode Ever and The Shelf Space Awards. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.