Paul Walker deserves better in one of his last roles, in the incoherent action thriller "Brick Mansions." Walker plays an undercover Detroit cop who teams up with a street thief (French star David Belle) to infiltrate the HQ of a drug lord (RZA). The movie is scripted by Luc Besson, and a remake of an insane French movie, "District B13," in which Belle starred. Belle's a master of parkour, the building-jumping martial-arts discipline, and he dodges and weaves quite creatively — which would look better if director Camille Delamarre wouldn't cut the action so frenetically.
Two more studio movies this week, without benefit of critics' screenings: The horror-thriller "The Quiet Ones," and the World War II drama "Walking With the Enemy."
The good stuff this weekend is at the art houses.
Best of the bunch is "Jodorowsky's Dune," a fun and eye-opening look at what some people call the greatest movie never made: Surrealist director Alejandro Jodorowsky's adaptation of Frank Herbert's trippy science-fiction classic. Jodorowsky, now 85, enthusiastically describes how he put together a team of "spiritual warriors" to make his movie — until it ran into Hollywood's executives. This documentary is a delightful look at creativity in the face of failure.
Also really good is "Joe," which reminds us what Nicolas Cage can do with a good character in a good movie. Cage plays the title character, an ex-convict trying to stay straight, who must decide whether to get involved when he meets a 15-year-old teen (Tye Sheridan) who's being battered by his alcoholic father (Gary Poulter). Director David Gordon Green creates a nicely observed look at hardscrabble people in rural Texas, and gives Cage room to give one of the best performances of his career.
Lastly, there's "The Railway Man," an absorbing drama that boasts a powerful performance by Colin Firth, as a former British Army signalman who was tortured in a World War II Japanese prison camp — and must confront the possibility of taking out revenge, decades later, on the Japanese officer (Hiroyuki Sanada) who oversaw his mistreatment. The movie is genteel in its early romance, as Firth's character meets a kindly nurse (Nicole Kidman), and harrowing in its wartime scenes (with "War Horse's" Jeremy Irvine as Firth's character as a young man)>