Paul Walker and Parkour in Brick Mansions + Distribution Quirks

August 27, 2014 | By

BrickMansionsThe release of Brick Mansions (2014) marks the last complete film performance of Paul Walker, who died during the production of Fast & Furious 7 in a devastating car crash.

Fans of the actor will find some comfort in seeing Walker in lengthy interviews on VVS Films’ Blu-ray edition, but in terms of the film, it’s another waste of the actor who was clearly cast by the filmmakers to capitalize on his fame as one of the main stars in Universal’s Fast & Furious franchise. The fact he drives fast onscreen also helps maintain that tie-in to the bigger and better franchise.

Brick Mansions is a remake of District 13 / Banlieu 13 (2004), the French film produced and co-written by Luc Besson. Being an English remake with Besson’s involvement, it’s another lazy attempt to launch an American franchise without improving on the original film. It’s a problem stemming from Besson’s lack of care  in properly developing material, perhaps being a little overconfident of his screenwriting skills, or perhaps having a little contempt for audiences willing to settle for the bare minimum.

The review addresses the many flaws in Besson’s English variant, plus some comparisons with the original film which itself wasn’t perfect. The publicity materials infer Walker engaged in Parkour, but the acrobatic feats of this urban sport are exclusively performed in the film by its co-creator, David Belle, star of District 13.

I like Besson, but it’s infuriating when he takes a novel concept and assumes audiences wanting dumb and fun will settle for dumb that actually goes beneath their intellect, if not those of a juvenile mindset.

One need only see what transpired when the opportunity to create an amusing franchise after the surprise success of the original French Taxi (1998) was spun off into a silly sequel, followed by a kind of late seventies Disney follow-up, and then quite frankly, a piece of shit. The mere existence of the American remake is what’s kept the fun original film out of distribution in North America; it is available in French and widescreen from Quebec, but no English subs.

And speaking of Quebec, there are a few unique releases floating around in la belle provence, but they exist because the licensees possess the French Canadian rights. That’s why Taxi is French-only, and why a handful of formerly out of print ITC films are available in anamorphic French-only editions, like the long sought-after Farewell, My Lovely (1975), which is distributed by Phase 4.

You’d think those who own the English language versions (dub track-wise, or subtitle-wise) would give a damn, but it’s one of the quirks of home video in North America: there’s French-only editions, American remakes blocking the original foreign version, the Weinsteins syndrome (sitting on rights or films and doing nothing), and Canadian films we import because the few indie labels left up here (it might literally be just a few) feel the market is too small, or they’ve recently been gobbled up by a major lacking the time to sift through more new assets.

Case in point: EOne’s purchase of Alliance has resulted in several titles falling out of print, with no current ETA on when or if they’ll return to a physical release. Case in point: Don McKellar’s Last Night (1998) is now OOP, and the film is only available as a full-screen U.S. import. David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996) is now OOP, but is available as a Warner Archive MOD. With Phase 4 now owned by EOne, it’ll be interesting to see how the production / distribution behemoth will handle a truly immense catalogue of titles.

My suggestion? Team up with Rogers and Shaw and pack their Shomi database with formerly OOP and previously unavailable titles the way Netflix does.  Add all that CanCon people want (like The Grey Fox) but can’t see, but for the love God, don’t include The Littlest Hobo.

I’m serious. Enough with that show. Its success is not derived from foreign sales but as filler material that meets the CanCon requirements for specialty channels. When channels like Showcase debuted, Hobo was everywhere.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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