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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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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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