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updated: 4/24/2014 7:19 AM

Paul Walker's last completed movie racked and packed with action

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  • An undercover cop (Paul Walker) goes on a mission to save 2018 Detroit in "Brick Mansions."

      An undercover cop (Paul Walker) goes on a mission to save 2018 Detroit in "Brick Mansions."

  • An undercover cop (Paul Walker), left, and an ex-con (David Belle) irritate a Detroit drug kingpin (RZA) in "Brick Mansions."

      An undercover cop (Paul Walker), left, and an ex-con (David Belle) irritate a Detroit drug kingpin (RZA) in "Brick Mansions."

  • Video: "Brick Mansions" trailer

 
 

The closing credits to "Brick Mansions" rightly dedicate this action movie to its star, Paul Walker, killed in a Nov. 30, 2013, car crash.

"Brick Mansions" marks the actor's last completed motion picture. He hadn't finished principal photography on "Fast & Furious 7" at the time of his death.

Walker fans will probably be pleased with the action and stunts in "Brick Mansions." Its nonstop chases and insane gunfire exchanges don't allow for a millisecond of boredom.

Nonetheless, first-time director Camille Delemarre's thriller is a pallid and disappointing copy of Pierre Morel's kick-butt French thriller "District B13," co-written and co-produced by legendary genre filmmaker Luc Besson.

In 2006, I wrote that Morel's original movie with its energized parkour stunts "works like a Jackie Chan clone-fest gone crazy. While Hollywood spends millions to convince us 'Mission: Impossible 3' and 'X-Men: The Last Stand' are great action films, 'District B13' recalibrates the genre for the 21st century the same way 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' set the standard for the last half of the 20th."

By comparison, "Brick Mansions" undermines its best asset -- the athletically impressive ­parkour sequences -- with overedited footage that would make a Jason Bourne movie look lethargic.

What's more, "District B13" reached beyond its live-action cartoon sequences by touching on the issues of class, crime and corruption at a time (the "future" of 2010).

"Brick Mansions" doesn't bother to reach much beyond action clichés we've now seen a zillion times.

It takes place in 2018 Detroit where a section of town has become so violent and rife with crime that the mayor and police erect huge walls to seal it off. They call the area "Brick Mansions." (Think futuristic Chicago at the beginning of "Divergent.")

"Sometimes you don't need to be a rocket scientist," drug kingpin Tremaine (RZA) says. "You just need a rocket!"

Tremaine doesn't have to worry about being a rocket scientist. Detroit's thugs are dumber than bullets.

Take drug lord George the Greek (Carlo Rota). He brings undercover cop Damien Collier (Walker) to his laundromat where a washing machine facade hides the secret door to his drug lab.

But his laundromat is surrounded by large windows, so anyone on the sidewalk can see people entering the "secret" door, including the cops across the street armed with binoculars. Yet, George can't figure out how the cops knew about his "secret" lab.

Tremaine, who can't talk to his henchmen unless he's chopping up vegetable matter on his kitchen table, has stolen a nuclear device that he has accidentally activated.

He hooks the bomb to a Russian missile. If city officials don't pay him a ransom, he threatens to fire it into Detroit.

The mayor (Richard Zeman) assigns Damien to disarm the bomb by punching a code into the weapon. Damien gladly accepts the assignment because he has unfinished business with Tremaine. He killed Damien's hero cop dad.

Damien doesn't like that he's paired with a French ex-convict named Lino, played by amazing parkour artist David Belle, who played the same character (then called Leito) in "District B13."

Lino also has unfinished business with Tremaine, who has kidnapped his former lover Lola (Catalina Denis) in retaliation for Lino destroying 20 kilos of his cocaine.

The rest of "Brick Mansions" consists of a stream of action sequences in which Belle's graceful and powerful moves provide the thrills.

Not so much the endless bullet barrages by blind baddies who never passed basic marksmanship training.

Take the rooftop sniper with a super gun scope who fires more than eight cartridges at Damien. And only hits his earlobe.

Or the villain in the passenger seat of a speeding car who fires a machine gun through the back window at Damien, holding on to the trunk for dear life. And misses.

"This isn't going to be a lot of fun!" Damien says, eerily reviewing "Brick Mansions" as the movie's in progress.

But with Belle bouncing around high-rise buildings with the gleeful abandon of a human gazelle, it's certainly a little bit fun.

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