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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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James Oldo: You’ve heard rags-to-riches stories. Today, we celebrate the reverse. 
<p>James of Oldo was born into a well-to-do family near Milan in 1364. He married a woman who, like him, appreciated the comforts that came with wealth. But an outbreak of plague drove James, his wife and their three children out of their home and into the countryside. Despite those precautions, two of his daughters died from the plague, James determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth. </p><p>He and his wife became Secular Franciscans. James gave up his old lifestyle and did penance for his sins. He cared for a sick priest, who taught him Latin. Upon the death of his wife, James himself became a priest. His house was transformed into a chapel where small groups of people, many of them fellow Secular Franciscans, came for prayer and support. James focused on caring for the sick and for prisoners of war. He died in 1404 after contracting a disease from one of his patients. </p><p>James Oldo was beatified in 1933.</p> American Catholic Blog Charity for the poor is like a living flame: the more dry the wood, the brighter it burns.


 
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