It’s a sad fact of life that actors die during filming.
Not only is their passing tragic at whatever age, it has the added effect of leaving their final work unfinished. There are, of course, ways around this.
When screen veteran Oliver Reed died before shooting all his scenes for Gladiator, the filmmakers used a body double and CGI to depict the altered fate of his character, Proximo. It seems that the upcoming Fast & Furious 7 will do the same for Paul Walker, who died late last year, though his character will apparently be retired rather than killed.
In more detail, in Walker’s last completed film, he plays Damien Collier, a hard-hitting undercover cop willing to do anything to get the job done. In the dystopian future Detroit of Brick Mansions, a whole neighborhood has been walled off and left to the violent criminals who live there. Also living there is Lino Dupree (played by parkour founder David Belle), a Robin Hood-like figure who battles against the drug dealers who run the streets, particularly RZA’s lean-and-mean Tremaine.
Lino and Damien’s paths cross when Damien is sent into Brick Mansions to recover a deadly stolen weapon and Tremain kidnaps Lino’s ex, Lola, and they are forced into an unlikely partnership.
A French-Canadian remake of French actioner District 13 – named for a fictional suburb in Paris – Brick Mansions follows a slightly simplified version of the same plot. In fact, both the writer, Luc Besson, and Belle worked on the previous film.
While the storyline is fairly rote – corrupt politicians, misunderstood criminals, and a race against the clock are the order of the day – the various chase sequences are never less than inventive: Lino’s pursuit by drug dealers through walls and over the rooftops of Brick Mansions plays out like a deadly, unpredictable game of Mousetrap. At its best, Brick Mansions resembles a bloodless version of The Raid.
Walker and Belle make a good duo – the latter is cocky and nimble, the former is principled and athletic. RZA’s Tremaine coolly performs murders while in the midst of cooking, though these cold-blooded executions somewhat undermine the third-act twist.
Brick Mansions is also not a great film for female characters: Catalina Denis gets a thankless if feisty role in Lola while RZA’s lead henchwoman, Rayza (Aylia Issa), is a psycho dolled up in fetish gear. If the final analysis, though, Brick Mansions can’t decide whether it wants to be pro-revolutionary or family friendly.
While Brick Mansions is not exactly Gladiator – it’s a lot less ambitious than that – if you’re a fan of Walker with a few hours to kill, it’s certainly worth a look.