Thursday, October 2, 2014

3+1 Short Paragraphs: Brick Mansions

2014, Camille Delamarre -- download

You have to wonder why American producers recreate movies that were already a hit in their own right. Banlieue 13, written by Luc Besson and directed by Pierre Morel (Taken), was an action hit in more countries than its home of France. The rather cheeky lifting of the base plot of Escape from New York had a cop and a criminal breaking into the walled off District 13 (Paris deals with its highly criminal neighbourhoods by walling them off) to rescue a ... bomb. Fluffy plot aside, it was known for its incredible parkour meets the martial arts of Ong Bak. David Belle not only starred, but also choreographed all the chase / fight scenes, which is not surprising since he is considered the founder of parkour as a movement.  See what I did there? It really is an amazing movie to watch, feeling as groundbreaking in action as The Bourne Identity did for fight scenes at its time.

David Belle returns in the remake as the criminal hero living in the walled-off city of New... I mean Detroit. Again, the walled-off area doesn't make too much literal sense. Both are trying to recreate the lack of building codes and the jammed-in feeling you get when you see images of Hong Kong, but apply it to a western location. If anything, Detroit lent itself easily for the use of abandoned buildings, gone completely lawless, if but for the fact that much of the filming happened in Montreal.

In the original there was some connection to the reality of certain neighbourhoods in Paris that had become completely controlled by the criminal element, in the extreme, where the police never visited, ever. The underlying opinion was that they were just abandoning the immigrant neighbourhoods they didn't want to bother policing. That isn't present in Detroit (that I am aware of), so it would be just the underclasses that cling to those areas of the city that look more bombed out then lived in. In both Belle's character is not so much a criminal as a Robin Hood hero trying to protect the average folk who were trapped inside the walls when they were erected. They may have been abandoned by the rest of the city, but not by Belle who wages a one man war against the criminals that control his home.

Again, the star of the movie is the parkour and quick paced action scenes. They are at least aware that Paul Walker cannot keep up with Belle, with a few fun scenes of him taking alternate routes. But other than the parkour, the movie is average action, average characterization and not very exciting. As I expected, all the pizazz was in the original, but I gather someone who had never seen it might like this one. As Walker's last movie, there is already a built in audience but I doubt this one made much of an impact anywhere.