American remake of District B13 disappoints

Detroit erects a wall to separate its ghettos from the rest of a crumbling economy in Brick Mansions – a dulled and listless remake of the imported District B13 – notable for being the final finished work of Paul Walker before his passing.

Quirky action writer Luc Besson helms Brick Mansions at the script level, creating an awful sense of racial divergence, then designing a putrid cat fight notable only for cracking whips and various stages of undress. The unreal weirdness Besson is known for – i.e., having Jason Statham repel a missile attack with a cookie sheet in the surreal Transporter sequel – isn’t here.

Instead, Brick Mansions is socially inconsiderate. Any originality was sucked up by the source material too, cloned here without any positive localized touches. Paul Walker’s athletic Damien Collier is assigned to break through the cordoned off city section, asked to defuse a Neutron bomb under the guidance of sniveling politicians. Paired with Lino (doubly athletic David Belle reprising his role from District B13), Collier dodges ridiculous levels of ammunition and survives disastrous vehicle collisions against unreasonable odds in an effort to thwart local kingpin Tremaine (RZA).

Through Tremaine, Brick Mansions wants layers of subtext. Rapper RZA joins a chorus line of dry performances in attempting to squeeze into the framework of a sudden economic allegory, mere minutes from completion of this simpleton good/evil plot structure. Points for unpredictability, except here there is a sense of overwhelming confusion as the grizzled cocaine dealer and unflinching murderer flip flops allegiances in a baffling bit of character misdirection.

Despite a handful of entertaining parkour segments from Davie Belle, this feature is instantaneously handicapped, appearing unfinished through critically mistimed post-production dubbing and patchwork editing. Fights are a jumble of jump cuts apparently filmed on some type of roller coaster rigging; nothing else could explain the nauseous camera bobbling which serves as the cinematography’s bouncy center.

Brick Mansion falters without an identity, stifled in the midst of a better, decade old foreign effort carrying more entertainment pizzazz. This near future story remake feels hung up on a sense of reality where none should exist, all to service a narrative bleeding into a sudden influx of income gap commentary. Plentiful action scenarios can’t save this lost remake. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

In slow-mo @ 1:16:40

Digital camera work is pleasing in this flip flopping visual space which relies on heavy shifts of color gradients to function. Scenes swap out yellows for blues, reds for yellows, and reds for greens. Few scenes are alleviated of a dominant hue, although flesh tones are typically in avoidance of any drastic shifts.

When stable, cinematography brings out stable facial definition with strong contrast aiding in depth. Fidelity is consistent up close. Shots from afar, some aided by visual effects to add in grimy texture, are splendid as the camera pans over Detroit’s semi-future skyline. The rest is actually Quebec.

Free from noise, the digital clarity is intact without any intrusions. Blu-ray work in the hands of Fox shows the studio’s usual level of satisfying bitrates and lack of transfer errors. Black levels retain a striking depth, while contrast fluctuates based on the situation. Exteriors tend to rush for a sun drenched appearance, with most interiors feeling boarded up without any natural light. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

What appears to be rushed audio mixing creates a DTS-HD track which proves abysmal in certain circumstances. Dialog is mistimed in opening scenes, leading to the belief these problems could be with the equipment. It’s not. Dub work seems pieced together from various recording sessions and environments which don’t match the on-screen action. David Belle’s dubbed lines will echo while Paul Walker responds without one. The style is careless.

Even being kind in considering the source flubs, mixing work lack energy. Gunfire is flat, dominating the front soundstage with boring, poorly directed impacts in the rears. Bass is only applied when the mix feels like it, sans consistency. Chase scenes feel too contained without distribution through each channel. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Audio]

Super brief bonuses add little to this disc, beginning with a short interview and BTS with Paul Walker. Becoming Tremaine praises RZA, and Brick by Brick runs through the characters. This is all of 10-minutes combined. Note the disc carries an extended cut as well which adds story bulk. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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