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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Brick Mansions

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Paul Walker, left, and David Belle star in a scene from the movie "Brick Mansions."
Combat, albeit of a stylized kind, is the whole point of the action picture "Brick Mansions" (Relativity). Though gore is kept to a minimum, some of the mayhem registers as vicious, if only by implication.

In a version of Detroit even more dystopian than its current reality, the dilapidated housing project of the title has become so dangerous that it's been walled off from the rest of the city. Within its crumbling halls, drug lord Tremaine Alexander (rapper RZA) holds sway, though his rule is challenged by anti-narcotics vigilante Lino Dupree (David Belle).

Alexander is also in the crosshairs of dedicated undercover cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker in his last completed role). Damien believes Alexander murdered his father, a decorated police officer, and he's determined to exact revenge.

He gets his opportunity when a weapons heist has the authorities panicking, and they assign Damien to retrieve the situation by infiltrating Brick Mansions with Lino as his guide. Lino has an agenda of his own, however, since Alexander has kidnapped his ex-girlfriend, Lola (Catalina Denis), in a bid to draw Lino into his lair.

Belle is one of the originators of a practice known as Parkour, which enables its devotees to move through an urban setting at maximum speed using physical discipline and taking spontaneous advantage of various elements of the environment. "Brick Mansions" showcases Belle's skills in this regard to entertaining effect, his impressive maneuvers providing welcome relief from all the brawling.

As bullets fly and cars race for the rest of the running time in director Camille Delamarre's adaptation of the 2004 French-language film "Banlieue 13," a wildly unrealistic plotline has the Motor City's ruling class scheming to use apocalyptic means to gentrify Brick Mansions.

Screenwriter Luc Besson, who co-wrote "Banlieue 13" with Bibi Naceri, plays on resentment fueled cynicism in his caricatured portrayal of the urban elite. He also justifies Alexander's criminality as nothing more than an oppressed underdog's attempt to adapt to his surroundings.

If some of the scenes appeal to envy, others are designed to excite a certain brand of lust. Thus, in her captivity, Lola is subjected to the unwanted attentions of Alexander's leather-clad underlying Rayzah (Ayisha Issa) who threatens the prisoner with a combination of torture and lesbian rape.

A souped-up Mustang (Alexander's pricey ride), endless fistfights and one chick menacing another. What more could a movie offer?

The film contains pervasive action violence, some of it brutal, a threat of homosexual rape, a glimpse of partial nudity, frequent crude and crass language and a couple of obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Trust always and a great deal in divine providence; never, never must you let yourselves be discouraged, despite contrary winds. I say it again: trust in God and Mary Immaculate; be faithful and forge ahead! <br />-Paulina do Coração Agonizante de Jesus

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