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I was not a fan of "Brick Mansions" (2014)

It's amazing how a language barrier can prevent you from noticing how stupid a movie's plot is.

District B13 is one of my favorite action movies of the 2000s. Its star, David Belle, found ways to make every scene vivid and engaging even when he was barely doing anything.  (To be fair, his interpretation of "barely doing anything" always worked out to "do the most amount of work possible to accomplish any one thing.")  The direction and editing were frenetic, but not chaotic, and so the overall effect was an 80 minute adrenaline rush that made you want to join a parkour class until you looked in the mirror and remembered why you watch movies instead.

After a riveting opening establishes a solid premise - an undercover cop has to infiltrate a walled-off slum in order to retrieve a thermonuclear device before the head of a criminal organization detonates it and kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people - it starts to dive into maudlin territory with a lot of heavy-handed character exposition. It relies on one-dimensional archetypes or complete nonsense to make any real story progression.  There's the by-the-book cop with a rebellious streak, the not-really-a-thug thug with a heart of gold who had a rough life growing up and just wants to make it in this hellish world, and the hard-luck gangster who's way smarter than his upbringing should allow and who makes sensible business decisions while administrating his gang like a Fortune 500 CEO.

Spoiler in this paragraph... It all boils over into the shocking twist ending where it turns out that the nuclear weapon, which was supposedly activated at the beginning of the story, has actually been inactive the whole time.  The undercover cop's assignment was actually for him to arm the device and set it off, thus destroying the slum and neatly taking care of the city's problems with managing it.  Fortunately, the not-a-thug thug and the Fortune 500 thug both figure this out in time to tell the cop, so they don't blow up the slum and instead go to beat up the cop's boss.  Then, in the sequel, they blow up the slum, anyway. The sequel is kind of a dumb movie, to be honest, but it still has David Belle jumping off shit, so I give it a pass.


District B13 is a lot of fun, so if you haven't seen it, I recommend you seek it out.  What I don't recommend you seek out is Brick Mansions, the American remake.

To be clear, Brick Mansions doesn't "ruin" the movie it's based on.  It's not like it took beloved characters and warped them beyond recognition or screwed around with the plot or anything like that.  If anything, Brick Mansions makes the original seem worse simply because it makes its weaknesses all the more apparent.  I blame it on two things:

1) The action is directed so much more slowly and ploddingly in Brick Mansions, which takes away from the nutso acrobatics that Belle is trying to pull off; and

2) Brick Mansions is in English, which totally destroys the exotic allure of strange, new, and sometimes dumb ideas when they're in a foreign language.

It is almost an exact duplicate of its source material.  Each plot beat is recreated, and even certain sequences are recreated almost shot-for-shot.  Some of the most incredible visuals are repeated one-for-one and at least a couple of David Belle's stunts are replicated.

And yet something is totally and completely lost in translation.  The energy is completely sapped.  District B13 was a Red Bull with vodka. Brick Mansions is sugar free tea with Metamucil.

More importantly, that ending is dumber than ever.  Why the hell are they sending in a cop to do any of this crap in the first place?  If the plan was just to bomb the shit out of the slum, why wouldn't they just arm the device ahead of time, put it on a timer, drive into the slum, leave the car behind, and then wait for it to go off?  Tricking a cop into going into the slum and tracking the bomb down in order to arm it - all of which is presented as a nearly impossible thing to do in the first place, by the way - is just a waste of time and resources.

But that French, man.  You really don't notice the spray of aerosol stupid coming out of somebody's mouth when it's dolled up in French.

Anyway.  Long story short, don't watch the remake.  Even if you're a Paul Walker completist, there are better movies to serve as his send-off.

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