For a while, Hollywood flirted with Parkour as a way to spice up action scenes. The most notable example was in 2006's "Casino Royale" when Daniel Craig's Bond pursued freerunner Sébastien Foucan across the Madagascar landscape, up a large crane and down again, and into an embassy which he promptly blew up. It was quite the sequence, and the first to significantly showcase freerunning (Parkour's cousin) in a major Hollywood blockbuster.
Parkour became increasingly popular in North America during the first decade of the 2000s, becoming somewhat of an internet sensation and occasionally cropping up in mainstream culture. By 2009, even the staff over at Dunder Mifflin were getting in on the action. "The Office" started its sixth season with a now fondly-remembered, infinitely-memed cold open that saw Michael, Dwight, and Andy attempting some highly questionable Parkour moves around the office.
But prior to Hollywood's tentative love affair with Parkour, it was the French who really embraced the sport — mostly due to its founder hailing from the country. David Belle created the practice using a mixture of inspirations including his fireman father, time spent in the fire brigade and military, and what the New Yorker called his "restless" energy, which needed an outlet during Belle's teenage years spent in the Parisian suburb, Lisses. Belle would eventually star in 2004's "Banlieue 13" ("District 13"), a French action movie written and produced by Luc Besson, unapologetically showcasing the star's extreme physical discipline long before Hollywood would catch on. But when it did, Parkour's moment in the spotlight wouldn't end with a cold open on "The Office." No, the industry had to go all-out before it could leave the sport alone.
The Remake Treatment
After Parkour speed-vaulted its way across the Atlantic, gaining sporadic mainstream attention, America devoted an entire movie to the sport. And what's more American than a remake? Enter "Brick Mansions," the 2014 action thriller that was pretty much a redo of "Banlieue 13." It even starred David Belle alongside Paul Walker, who was fresh off some of the most successful movies in the "Fast and Furious" franchise.
The "Brick Mansions" was directed by Camille Delamarre, whose previous experience was mostly in editing, and Luc Besson maintained a presence by helping out on writing duties. Following a very similar story to its French counterpart, "Brick Mansions" moved the action from Paris to Detroit (though the film itself was actually shot in Montreal), where a particularly impoverished area of the city had become so dangerous the authorities decide to wall it off. Inevitably, Walker's undercover cop, Damien Collier, found himself within the containment zone, battling all manner of dangerous folks alongside Belle's ex-con Lino Duppre.
Throughout their intense adventure, both Walker and Belle display some impressive Parkour abilities, with Walker having been trained by the "father" of the sport himself. As the actor told GQ:
"[Belle]'s just a flipping stud. We've been running around so much I've become part monkey. I'm a pretty agile guy, especially being taller and having done martial arts from about the age of 13, but Parkour is one of those sports that I wish I'd discovered sooner. When my nephew first showed me I thought, 'Damn, I'm too old for this.' But David's just turned 40 and I see his physicality, what he's capable of and I figure I can probably do it too. Obviously not as well as him because he's been doing it his whole life, but it's fun; it's a challenge."
Brick Mansions Was An Underwhelming Love Letter To Parkour
Prior to "Brick Mansions," and beyond its usage in "Casino Royale," Parkour hadn't really been given the full movie treatment. As one of the film's co-stars and Hip-Hop legend, RZA, said in a promotional interview:
"For an American audience, first and foremost, we're going to see a whole exhibition of Parkour. And we have enjoyed it in small doses, Bond had a little small dose of it, sometimes you watch the superhero movies and you get a small dose of it. No, this is a full-course meal and we haven't gotten that yet."
With the father of Parkour onboard, the action was always going to be top-notch, and Walker was fully dedicated to learning what he could from his esteemed tutor. In behind-the-scenes footage, the actor seems to genuinely enjoy doing his own action sequences.
Unfortunately, whereas the 2004 French original was generally praised for its original Parkour action, "Brick Mansions" appeared to offend a fair few critics by somewhat botching the whole Parkour element. Variety's Justin Chang highlighted the film's "aggressive cutting technique (especially in the parkour sequences)" which made it harder to "appreciate the real-time agility of the stuntwork." Meanwhile, The Guardian's Andrew Pulver noted how the film "kind of skimps on the parkour, the main reason why anyone went to see 'District 13.'" All of which seemingly undermines RZA's evaluation of his movie as "a whole exhibition of Parkour."
It's a shame, because "Brick Mansions" could have been the big showcase the sport needed to help it on its way to true mainstream acceptance. As it stands, Walker's penultimate film before his death was, sadly, as underwhelming as Michael Scott's Parkour moves.
Read this next: The 18 Best Action Movie Actors Ranked
The post Paul Walker's Brick Mansions Training Included Learning From The 'Father Of Parkour' appeared first on /Film.