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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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Pio of Pietrelcina: In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity." 
<p>Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease. </p><p>Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. </p><p>At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. </p><p>On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924. </p><p>Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. </p><p>Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds. </p><p>A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters. </p><p>One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.</p> American Catholic Blog In times of intense loss and grief, we take our place with Mary as she embraces all our grief in her own as she is silently holding in her arms the stark presence of our suffering God in the lifeless body of her Son.

 
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