As the story opens, high school student and former drug dealer Brendan Frey (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), receives a cryptic message from his ex-girlfriend, Emily. She dropped him when she started hanging out with the popular kids, and now she's missing. Brendan's search leads him through a maze of nasty jocks and violent drug dealers that eventually leads to Emily's dead body. Now Brendan must find the killer - is it the local drug lord, the drama queen, the hit man, or an enigmatic cheerleader?
If you're looking for something really different, "Brick" is for you. Rian Johnson wrote and directed "Brick" as an homage to the film noir style of the forties. To call the characters and dialogue "hard-boiled" would be an understatement. They are all so jaded and calloused and see little of value in life. They speak in a teen/drug codethat is so unique I actually had to turn on the subtitles to understand the dialogue. That didn't detract from the movie at all, however. Once I figured out what the slang meant, it was a fascinating new language.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has matured a lot since he was in "Third Rock From the Sun." He carries the movie with his James Dean-charisma and brooding charm. Lukas Haas gives a subtle, eerie performance as the club-footed drug lord. There is only one adult in the movie, making the teens seem even more alone and alienated from mainstream society. This is a moody, intense, and unflinching look at the teen drug world. (It's interesting that there are no curse words and no drugs are actually mentioned by name.) Highly recommended.
To know whether or not you would be interested in watching "Brick," all you have to do is answer a rather odd little question. Are you interested in seeing a Dashiell Hammett hard-boiled detective story played out as a high school film noir? Now if you are a fan of Hammett and the book and/or movie version of "The Maltese Falcon" the idea of a teenagers spouting dialogue like they were Sam Spade and Kaspar Gutman trapped in younger bodies might be enough to put you off your lunch already. Furthermore, if you are well versed in American cinema the idea might bring to mind Alan Parker's "Bugsy Malone," which put Jodie Foster and a bunch of other pre-teens in a 1930s Chicago gangster movie. But that weird little experiment was not half bad and "Brick" is a lot more successful in trying to pull this off and is a lot closer to "Sin City" than to "Bugsy Malone." "Brick" won the Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision, and you have to grant writer-director Rian Johnson that much for sure.
At the start of the film, Johnson's hero Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds the dead body of Emily (Emilie de Ravin) in a drainage ditch. She had called him earlier in the day pleading for help and later saw her in the back seat of a car as it drove away. Now she is dead. So he decides to find out who killed her and starts backtracking on what she had been doing and with whom. The only one Brendan can trust is the Brain (Matt O'Leary), who is basically a walking computer who observes a lot by just watching while it seems he is working on his computer or solving a Rubik's Cube. This leads him to the high school drug ring and the major players, although not without Brendan getting his face smashed in a few times in his effort to shake things up and see what happens next.
The other players are the Pin (Lukas Haas), Tugger (Noah Fleiss), Dode (Noah Segan), and Brad Bramish (Brian J. White), with Laura (Nora Zehetner) and Kara (Meagan Good) as the femme fatales. Beyond that last alliterative appellation I do not want to say who is what because half the fun here is in watching Brendan find out who is what. The other half is listening to what these characters have to say, because the rhythms are Hammet's, but the glossary is often idiosyncratic and the dynamic is pure high school (My favorite is when Brendan is engaged in a conversation that has descended down to both parties saying "Yeah" a lot and he finally shoots back, "There's a thesaurus in the library. Yeah is under 'Y'. Go ahead, I'll wait").
While for the most part this movie takes place in a Charlie Brown world where adults are absent, there are a few notable exceptions. Brendan has been of use to Assistant Vice Principal Trueman (Richard Roundtree) in the past, but that relationship is now tenuous. However, it does suggest that the "bulls" are out there somewhere, and Brendan has to get to the bottom of things without or at least before the authorities get involved. Then there is the Pin's mother (Reedy Gibbs), whom I mention simply because very rarely do you get to see a criminal mastermind's mother putter around the kitchen making sure everybody has something to drink.
Everybody in "Brick" is dead serious about what they are doing and they never blink an eye at all of the verbiage that comes spilling out every time they start flapping their gums. The illusion of this strange reality is maintained from start to finish, when Brendan confronts the guilty party in the middle of a high school football field. At that point Johnson most clearly invites comparisons to "The Maltese Falcon" because at this point he knows that you have either bought the game plan here and will enjoy the more overt homage, or this would be the final nail in the coffin. For me the results are certainly enough to warrant rounding up on this 2005 film and to hope that Johnson can find something equally creative for his next venture. That will be hard to do, but you have to feel that based on "Brick" he might be able to carry it off and not be a one cult classic wonder.
Final Note: Is Emilie de Ravin ever allowed to play a character that is not pregnant? I am just asking, because after "Roswell" and "Lost" we are now at the point where that seems to be all she plays and I can just see Hollywood execs saying "We need an actress to play a young pregnant woman, go get Emilie de Ravin." If she ever does become pregnant for real people are going to look at her and ask what movie she is doing it for.
This movie was surprisingly good. It's not a movie I envision people running out to see in the theaters. It's the type of film that you'd catch on cable. The movie brings to life a genre which has all but disappeared from mainstream cinema, but also brings a refreshing feeling of originality through its use of unconventional characters. Joseph G.Leavitt was great in this film he has taken a lot of risks in the roles he plays -- from troubled teen in MANIC, to the gay hustler in MYSTERIOUS SKIN).
The movie unfolds slowly, and it nearly makes you want to give up on it because the script employs verbiage in the vein of a 1940's James Cagney film. Snappy dialogue, delivered at a rapid fire pace and flowery turn of phrases that you have to pay attention to decipher. As a 1940's noir type film, it has the standard archetypes: the hero who is seeking justice, his brainy sidekick, the femme fatale, the gal with the heart of gold, the larger than life villain (played by Lukas Haas) and his dunderhead henchman.
While very inventive, it could easily turn a person off, but as the movie progresses, you learn to appreciate the tone and the simple fact that the film doesn't talk down to you.
Another thing I liked about the movie is that it's not trying to pull the wool over your eyes. At first, hearing these young-ish actors speaking this type of dialogue feels as if they're playing grown-up, it threatens to be campy, but by alluding to rides from parents and trips to the Vice-Principal's office, you realize that these are teens and they are not trying to be anything other than teens. My only gripe is the sound. Editing must've been tough and several times lines were garbled or mumbled, making it necessary to rewind and find out what was said. Despite it's flaws, this Brick doesn't sink.
This film is daring, brutal and at times actually fun. If this was shoot in black and white then it would've been a cult classic authenticity. It should be seen for the simple fact that it's unlike anything coming out of Hollywood.
on April 21, 2009
Well paced and with an excellent cast, Brick is a fresh approach to the noir genre. Though the script occasionally treads the line of unbelievable, it's the performances that really bring this movie together. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in particular pulls out all the stops, evoking memories of his hard-bitten predecessors with every snarl and sullen look. The characterization is solid, the plot tight.
I can't reccomend this movie strongly enough. It's a real find for anyone interested in the genre.
on July 11, 2014
I think it's a very well made movie. However the quality of the blu-ray itself is mediocre at best. The video is fine. It is not supposed to be 'Avatar' or some visually stunning movie anyway. However the the audio is awful. A shame, because while I do really enjoy the movie, it's hard to hear some of the great dialogue in a thoroughly dialogue-driven movie.
The movie, when you can hear it, is sharp and well acted. Definitely recommend the movie itself, but not particularly this purchase.