In a dystopian Detroit, abandoned brick mansions left from better times now house only the most dangerous criminals. Unable to control the crime, the police constructed a colossal containment wall around this area to protect the rest of the city. For undercover cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker) every day is a battle against corruption. For Lino (David Belle), every day is a fight to live an honest life. Their paths never should have crossed, but when drug kingpin, Tremaine (RZA) kidnaps Lino’s girlfriend, Damien reluctantly accepts the help of the fearless ex-convict, and together they must stop a sinister plot to devastate the entire city. With stylized action featuring thrilling Parkour stunts (David Belle is the co-founder of this physical training discipline), Brick Mansions puts an entertaining twist on the action genre. (c) Relativity
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, remakes are fine. You just need to do something to differentiate it from the source material. Whether it’s a change in plot or a different tone it can be done. Brick Mansions, a remake of District 13, does the opposite. The movie tries to repeat the original so much that you wouldn’t know the difference if it weren’t for Paul Walker and RZA. Well there are some differences but they were for some of the crazier moments that helped District 13 stick out. The best example is when Paul Walker goes undercover early in the film. In the original Damien (Cyril Raffaelli in the original) goes all out with this ludicrous dreadlocked wig. In this movie all Walker does is dye his hair and put in contacts. Would it have been silly? Sure. But it’d at least be something before the shoot out that’s inferior to the original.
This is a shame because I really liked the cast in Brick Mansions. A decade later David Belle can still pull of some fun and inventive parkour stunts. By his side is Paul Walker who more than holds his own as Belle’s partner trying to keep up. While he’d never be a huge star he totally worked as a direct-to-DVD style action star. But who kept my attention the most was RZA as Termaine Alexander. While I’ve been lukewarm on his more serious acting jobs he pulls off the over-the-top gangster to perfection. From shooting with a gold handgun to dropping a reference to classic Wu Tang tracks he brought a weird, fun energy this movie could lack at times.
In the end I can’t think of a good reason to see this movie. Despite a good cast it just feels like a poor imitation of the original movie. Neither the story nor the action is better in comparison. If there were some sort of RZA overacting compilation than maybe. Besides that only the most dedicated of Paul Walker fans (which there apparently are) would have much reason to see this movie.
The Protector 2
Boss Suchart is the influential owner of a major elephant camp. When he was murdered in his own home – the killer delivered three fatal blows on his body – all evidence points to KHAM (Tony Jaa), who was present at the crime scene and was seen with the victim the moment before he died. Kham is forced to run as the police launch a pursuit. Meanwhile, the twin nieces of Boss Suchart (Jija Yanin Wismitanan and Teerada Kittisiriprasert) are out for revenge. But luck is on Kham’s side when he runs into Sergeant MARK (Mum Jokmok), an Interpol agent sent to Thailand on a secret mission. As Kham is hunted by several parties, he’s also desperately searching for KHON, his elephant, whose disappearance is involved with Boss Suchart’s death. In another twist, Kham is drawn into an underground fighting ring run by LC (RZA), a crime lord who’s obsessed with collecting top-class martial artists from around the world. LC’s fighters are branded only by numbers, such as the lethal, beautiful TWENTY (Ratha Pho-ngam) and the diabolical NO.2 (Marrese Crump). These fighters are ordered to defeat and capture Kham for a special mission that LC has in mind. A sequel of the global smash-hit The Protector (Tom Yam Goong), THE PROTECTOR 2 is an extreme fight movie, an endlessly intense, nerve-racking film full of fists, elbows, kicks and daredevil stunt scenes and amazingly choreographed fighting moves that will pump hot blood through the body of all action fans.(C) Magnolia
Of all Asian modern action stars Tony Jaa is probably the most enigmatic. Breaking out in 2003’s Ong Bak the then 27 year old seemed like the next big thing in action. Similar to Jackie Chan he did all of his own stunts without special effects or wirework. With an endorsement from Chan in The Protector everything seemed to be on track. Then around Ong Bak 2 things seemed to fall off the rails. Between behind the scenes issues and Jaa joining a Buddhist monastery he seemed to just drop off the map. Now four years later Jaa has returned to film but can he reclaim his spot at the top? Does kind of-sort of count as an answer?
The thing is that unlike its predecessor The Protector 2 isn’t a gritty martial arts movie. While there is some martial arts action the main focus of this movie seems to be over-the-top action set pieces. In that respect the movie can be quite fun. Similar to the wackier Jackie Chan movies frequent Jaa collaborator and director Prachya Pinkaew pulls out all the stops to show off some pretty fun and fast paced action. Another major difference from the first Protector movie is heavy use of wire work and green screen. Not just green screen but some really obvious, Legendary Amazons style green screen. While I can see it being distracting for some it helped the general goofiness of the movie.
Speaking of goofiness RZA is the main villain and oh my god is he amazing. Despite having great martial artists like Jija Yanin and Marrese Crump it’s RZA who absolutely steals the show. It’s not that he’s a bad actor (even though he kind of is). But he’s chewing so much scenery and obviously having so much fun that I couldn’t help but love him as LC. Everyone else, including Tony Jaa, isn’t given much to work with. I know this isn’t going to be an acting clinic but things are bad when you characters are literally just numbers.
There are lots of reasons to dislike this movie. Whether it’s the acting or the special effects the movie has tons of flaws. But it’s hard to focus on these flaws with this movie’s quick pace and fun action set pieces. While I don’t think is the grand return Tony Jaa would have hoped for it’s certainly a good reminder why he loved him in the first place.