Review: The parkour film ‘Brick Mansions’ needs more parkour

Parkour co-inventor David Belle is seen doing on of the few bits of parkour in "Brick Mansions." Credit: Philippe Bosse
Parkour co-inventor David Belle is seen doing on of the few bits of parkour in “Brick Mansions.”
Credit: Philippe Bosse

‘Brick Mansions’
Director: Camille Delamarre
Stars: Paul Walker, David Belle
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

Ten years ago the French action film “District B13” introduced movies to parkour. What is parkour? It’s not a martial art but a “holistic training discipline” in which participants navigate barriers, jump over walls and sometimes between buildings. It’s a no-brainer for movies — except that movies have barely used it. “Casino Royale” was frontloaded with a parkour sequence, but the practice has unaccountably refused to blossom, and only a handful seem to know how to do it properly.

Indeed, “Brick Mansions” — the very belated American remake of “District B13” — only has one guy who can do parkour. He’s David Belle, one of its inventors and star of the original. He reprises his role as Lino (Leito in the original), a taciturn beefcake who lives in the titular locale: an “Escape From New York”-style compound that has walled-off not only criminals but anyone below the poverty line from everyone else. The setting for this one, of course, is Detroit.

Everything is basically the same: An officer, Paul Walker’s Damien, has to sneak into Brick Mansions, defuse a bomb and take down an infamous kingpin (marital arts superfan Rza, mostly present to whip out a gratuitous “C.R.E.A.M.” nod). Even with the political axe to grind, it’s all an excuse for parkour — or it would be if there was much parkour, or if you could see the parkour when it was infrequently busted out.

The original was unusual in modern action cinema by using long takes — as with dancing, the only way to appreciate the skill that goes into Belle and company doing jaw-dropping, lightning fast moves, or sometimes three or four of them in a row, and THEN jumping from a roof into an adjacent window. But for whatever reason — Belle’s age, the fact that no one but Belle can do parkour — director Camille Delamarre cuts the hell out of the action. He stresses blunt force, not balletic skill. One building leap gets diced into six shots, completely ruining the stunt. If you can’t see Belle do what he does in one take, then it just looks like mere movie magic.

Paul Walker joins David Belle in the remake of the French action film "District B13." Credit: Philippe Bosse
Paul Walker joins David Belle in the remake of the French action film “District B13.”
Credit: Philippe Bosse

There’s little parkour anyway. More often than not this is a generic action picture, peppered with cool stunts you wish you could see clearly. The film follows the original fairly closely — it too has been written by Eurotrash mega-auteur Luc Besson — so it feels like it should hypothetically work. But the mimicry is off, and the film looks distractingly cheap and corner-cutting. The film’s stupidity actually becomes a liability at times, as when we’re asked to remember about a tiny detail no audience member would in a million years think to notice. Maybe the original seemed less asinine when you had to read it.

Paul Walker is one of the better things about “Brick Mansions,” and not only because this is one of his final works. It was easy while he was alive to take his granite-Abercrombie presence for granted, but its clear he’d happened upon the right balance of badassery and everyguy appeal. He makes non-jokes if not funny, exactly, then affable. There’s a single good gag (one borrowed, more or less, from “Casino Royale”), where Lino effortlessly careens himself up a wall and over, throwing himself through a small hole — an impossibly cool move that leaves Damien dumbstruck, forced to come up with a more brutish alternative. For about 20 seconds, “Brick Mansions” isn’t merely a film that exists because people hate to read at the movies.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Dogs are capable of feeling jealousy - U.S.…

By Curtis Skinner(Reuters) - Dogs are a man's best friend, and research released on Wednesday says canines want to keep it that way.Dogs are capable…

Local

G train riders brace for five-week shutdown

G train service will be suspended between Brooklyn and Queens between Friday, July 25, and Tuesday, Sept. 2.

International

Peaches Geldof's death was drugs-related, coroner rules

LONDON (Reuters) - The death of Peaches Geldof, the daughter of musician and Band Aid founder Bob Geldof, was drugs-related, a coroner ruled on Wednesday.The…

Local

Family, supporters gather in Brooklyn for Eric Garner…

Family members gathered on Wednesday for the funeral of Eric Garner, who died shortly after police put him in a banned chokehold as they arrested him.

Going Out

Where to go drinking on National Tequila Day…

Thursday is just close enough to the end of the week to make you envision yourself already sunning on a beach towel or lounging by…

Going Out

Things to do in NYC this week: July…

Performing arts A 70’s Summer Night Friday, 6:30 p.m. The Green Building 452 Union St., Gowanus $35, 347-529-6473 Party like it’s summer in the 1970s…

Going Out

5 must-try dishes at Edible Manhattan's Good Beer

Rooting out the exotic amid the New York City bar scene is noble quest. But if you’d like to have it all come to you,…

Books

Art imitates life (almost) in David Shapiro's new…

David Shapiro talks about his book, "You're Not Much Use To Anyone."

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

MLB

Brandon McCarthy finds his calling on Twitter

Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy joined Twitter three year ago for the same reason many people do: to get news quickly.

Sports

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running…

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running game a boost

Food

Recharge with a post-workout smoothie from Nicky Hilton

Some people can roll out of bed right as their alarm goes off. And that alarm isn’t set for 20 minutes before they have to…

Education

Colleges are increasingly embracing the concept of gender-neutral…

  Northwestern University recently made headlines after announcing that it would be installing two gender-neutral bathrooms in the university's student center. “These are two gender-open…

Career

How to prepare to interview for your dream…

    Congratulations! You landed a job interview at your dream company! A lot of hard work has gone into determining which companies to apply…

Style

The shirtdress is a summer must-have

  We love throwing on our boyfriend’s shirt and a pair of jeans (no matter how much he grumbles that it’s his turn to wear the…