'Brick Mansions' a dull rerun
Two minutes into the Paul Walker action thriller Brick Mansions and it's déjà vu all over again.
Wait, haven't we seen this before?
Is it a rerun?
As it happens, it is. Kind of.
A tediously faithful remake of French filmmaker Luc Besson's terrific 2004 international hit District 13, the Besson-produced Brick Mansions might have been mildly interesting had it been made a decade ago.
As it is, it's passé. It's boring. Predictable. And, well, boring.
Besson had his first major hit with the neon-and-new-wave-music-inflected romantic dramedy Subway. After a few relatively quiet pictures, he took the French film industry by storm by producing films that tried to outdo - out-gun, out-explode, out-sex - Hollywood's most over-the-top action films, scoring international hits with the sensational Nikita and the explosive Léon: The Professional.
He came into his own with District 13, a dystopian inner-city fantasy that mined a rich, exciting vein with its remarkable use of the sport of parkour - the crazy, and at the time relatively new form of urban racing in which runners negotiate obstacles such as buildings, pipes, telephone poles, wires, bridges, trees, windows, cars, buses, and pedestrians with wondrous feats of gymnastic daring.
Parkour master David Belle and martial artist/stunt coordinator Cyril Raffaelli starred in the original as a lawless rebel and straitlaced cop, respectively, who sneak into a walled-off ghetto to take down a ruthless drug baron who has gotten his filthy, crazy hands on a ticking nuclear bomb.
Belle reprises his role in Brick Mansions, replicating some of the same stunts as he leads dozens of gun-toting gangsters to their doom across the rooftops and courtyards of the titular slum. But he's a decade older, a little slower, and, frankly, he exudes an air of apathy and ennui.
Walker, who died in a car crash in November, plays the hero cop. As energetic as he could be on screen, he simply doesn't have Raffaelli's balletic precision in hand-to-hand combat.
There are some nice touches and a few strong jokes and cultural references. Hip-hop star RZA is amusing as the bad guy and Catalina Denis is adorable as Belle's ex-lover Lola.
Written (well, photocopied) by Besson from his original script and helmed by editor-turned-director Camille Delamarre, Brick Mansions uses a dizzying array of frenetic camera work and methamphetamine editing, but does little more than stand still.
Brick Mansions ** (out of four stars)
Directed by Camille Delamarre. With Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA, Gouchy Boy, Catalina Denis. Distributed by IFC Films.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity, violence, drug use, drug selling, guns, sexuality).
Playing at: area theaters.