I get to do an Old vs New on this movie! I haven’t done one of these in a few months and its about due. I could tell from the trailers on this one that it was nearly a shot for shot remake of 2004 french film District 13. Now when I say shot for shot, I mean quite literally I recognized plot, scenes, lines of dialogue and entire shots from the original. All to the point where I didn’t expect to see anything new in the film.
Was I wrong?
Well, yes. To a point. Camille Delamarre, the director, took Luc Besson’s (5th Element, La Femme Nikita, Leon The Professional) and Bibi Naceri’s original script from D13 and decided to americanize it. If the world is a good place Delamarre will never direct another movie. I know the world is not a good place. This movie proves it. Every-Single-Good decision from D13 is undone. The parts that they keep from the original are barely tolerable and the parts they deviate from are so abysmally bad I would consider watching Die Hard 5 or World War Z again.
I said consider. I didn’t say I would do it.
Lets talk story, the world is a godawful place. So bad they cordoned off a section of a major city and left it to rot, burn, and eventually die. The original is of course in Paris. The new one is set in Detroit. It felt like what Robocopy should have been. Inside this district gangs rule their respective blocks or buildings. One is kept (relatively) clean by its leader Lino (BM)/Lieto(D13) who is trying to keep his part of the city free from drugs and safe for his people. This of course puts him at odds with Tremaine(BM)/Taha(D13). Things of course fail to go his way and he ends up in a worse spot than he was in. Meanwhile outside the district supercop Damien (in both) is given a mission of the utmost secrecy and importance that will determine the fate of both the district and the city at large. Lino/Lieto is in it for love and trying to save Lola (girlfriend in BM/sister in D13) and Damien is in it because he believes in the system. Together they might both get what they want.
That core story remains the same between the two. As there are no writing credits beyond the original screenplay all blame for change must ride with the director. Unless of course there is a writer out there who knows how bad this adaptation was and took their name off of it. Not even an Alan Smithee credit to be found. Sad that. With a Smithee I could understand why everyone had their IQs drop. I could understand why there was a completely and totally unnecessary girl fight. I could understand why the script was bordering on offensive on so many levels. I could understand why it was so pathetically derivative that it had to explain the subplot in the first five minutes with Snidely Whiplash cackling on screen. Ok Whiplash didn’t quite make it , but might as well. They literally made everything in the movie DUMBER and even potentially more stereotypical and offensive to make it for us.
Yay American cinema. Someone shoot me.
Is it all bad? No.
David Belle, who was in the original (and its sequel) reprises his role as Lieto in Lino. For those not familiar with Belle he FOUNDED Parkour. Founded. Every bit of a free running you see in movies now you can thank him. He is one of the most amazing men I have ever had the pleasure to witness on film. His physicality and agility are the stuff of legends. In D13 we are able to truly embrace and enjoy it with long shots of his free running through the district – over, around, up and down every surface he can touch. In Brick Mansions, we are…treated…to quick cuts, snap shots and a hint of shaky cam that prevents us from truly enjoying his ability to move. He is still amazing, but you can’t enjoy it. Of course his counterpart in this is is also important.
District 13 gives us the hyper athletic Cyril Raffaelli as Damien. If you saw the Jet Li movie Kiss of the Dragon you saw this man fight Li and it was impressive. Not only can he fight, he is capable of acting and even a small bit of comedic timing. The physicality though is what lets you believe he can keep up with someone like Belle when they are on screen together. Paul Walker, not so much. He is very much the modern american action star. Brute force, some speed, no grace. It’s near impossible to compare the two men as Raffaelli just shines in such a physically demanding role. Walker is his usual self , which is slightly charming but as much real personality as Keanu Reeves. Though Reeves is mocked more for the same type of performance. Yes, I am sorry Walker is gone, but he doesn’t have a lot of range.
The bad guy, Taha, played by writer Bibi Naceri in D13 comes across pretty solid through and through in D13. He’s the king of a kingdom of ashes. Little else. His power is in his men and his ruthlessness. RZA (man with the Iron Fists) is your type-A1 standard urban lord with Tremaine. He has faux class, power through his men and a perceived intelligence higher than he should have. Tremaine as the bad guy serves the story as well as to be expected for the type of villain he is. In traditional fashion for us they make him as important as the heroes of the story and necessitate him through the end.
From a technical standpoint, nothing succeeds in Brick Mansions. Nothing. The unnecessary girl fight with two girls effectively in fetishwear fighting with fetish weapons. Just what we need. Shaky cam, quick cuts. Because more of that is good. Two leads who aren’t even in the same hemisphere physically? Brilliant choice.
DO NOT SEE THIS GARBAGE. Save your $9 bucks. Get Netflix account for a month and watch the original. The subtitles don’t hurt, I promise. Seriously, DO NOT SEE THIS.
I can’t stress it enough. I was offended at many of the things they did from a film standpoint. Someone got hit in the head and you could HEAR THE LOONEY TOONS TWEETY BIRD SOUND! WHO DOES THAT?!
Yes I am raging because this film was a waste of celluloid that they released just to capitalize on walkers death. I can’t even recommend this one for MsT3K style commentary and viewing. It’s too dumb. It thinks WE are too dumb. I don’t have a high opinion of humanity, but I think mine is higher than this.
Gah, just don’t see Brick Mansions. Don’t let your friends see it. Let it burn in the pits of Tartarus.