It's not easy to guess who the big bad wolf is in this tale
Take out all the fistfights, the arsenal of weapons, the illegal drugs and the scatological slang (plus a sexual expletive and a few modifications of that word) and about all you have left in Brick Mansions is a five second product placement spot for Under Armour clothing.
The set up feels a little like District 9, except it’s not aliens that are cordoned off from the rest of Detroit’s population. It’s the poor people, the felons, the junkies and their suppliers that live in the Brick Mansion housing projects. After closing down schools, hospitals and police stations in the area, the city government erected a wall around the neighborhood and essentially turned it over to drug dealers and criminals. But now one group of thugs, under the control of a drug lord named Tremaine (RZA) has stolen a neutron bomb. And they have it aimed at downtown Detroit.
The Mayor (Bruce Ramsay), along with a couple of sidekicks in expensive suits, asks undercover officer Damien Tomaso (Paul Walker) to slip into the area of town also known as the cesspool and secure the bomb before it goes off.
Damien has good reason to accept the assignment. His father, who was also a police officer, was killed by Tremaine. Back in his apartment, Damien has his own personal wall of most wanted and Tremaine tops the list. However taking on this drug dealer and his mob single-handedly isn’t going to work. So the police arrange for Damien to partner with Lino (David Belle), a lone vigilante in Brick Mansions who’s tackling crime inside the walls.
While the violence is relatively bloodless, it is excessively gratuitous—especially when Lino and Damien confront a thick-necked villain known as the Yeti (Robert Maillet). Despite the fact that individually Damien and Lino have repeatedly fought off throngs of thugs with little more than their fists and wits, the two of them together are stymied when they come up against Yeti. All their usual disarming tactics fail. So after ineffectively punching, kicking and employing metal pipes, they finally wrap him up in electrical cords and bash him on the head with a cinderblock—yes a cinderblock! It’s unwarranted since they could have easily outrun the lumbering giant. (Only moments earlier he was wheezing in the stairwell while trying to catch up with the pair.)
Profanities fly as frequently as bullets too. The script keeps to one use of a complete sexual expletive, but there are at least two crude hand gestures and some partial uses of the extreme profanity. Thankfully, with all the fighting there’s hardly any time for kissing in the movie. However a female criminal, dressed in a provocative little leather get-up, enjoys playing with another female captive, using a razor blade and other sexually menacing tactics that lead to a girl-on-girl fight.
This isn’t really a story about good vs. bad. It’s more about bad vs. badder. And figuring out who is the baddest of all isn’t easy. That’s because the dialogue takes a back seat to the endless choreographed fight scenes. By the time the movie ends, audiences will likely still feel uneasy about the future of these Brick Mansions.