Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora
Zehetner, Noah Fleiss, Matt O'Leary, Noah Segan,
Meagan Good, Emilie De Ravin, Richard Roundtree,
Released by: Focus Features
Short: This postmodern teen noir is tough,
bizarre and surprisingly entertaining.
Takes a Refresher Course in "Brick"
his ex-girlfriend turns up dead, hardened outsider Brendan
Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes private dick and plunges
into a seedy underworld to unravel the mystery and find
her killer. Of course, this is all between classes at
his sunny Southern California high school.
feature debut for writer/director Rian Johnson, “Brick”
won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at
the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, but unlike so many underwhelming
festivals exports, the buzz here is warranted. Johnson
transposes the milieu of 30s film noir to modern day high
school. Instead of going to pains to make his teenage
characters speak in the most up-to-the-minute slang, Johnson
writes them throwback dialogue seemingly lifted out of
Dashiell Hammett’s oeuvre. In opening scenes, the
film feels a bit gimmicky, but instead of wearing thin,
the noir angle proves a fresh and astute lens with which
to view the pecking orders and double-crosses of a modern
high school, which in turn provides a wonderful setting
for an updating of this neglected genre.
flexed his dramatic chops in last year’s indie “Skin,”
Gordon-Levitt carries the lone wolf role well and delivers
his anachronistic lingo with aplomb. With the help of
his friend The Brain (Matt O’Leary), Brendan must
shake down a high school cast of drama club femme fatales,
varsity jock thugs and unreliable potheads. The “brick”
of the title refers to a brick of heroin that may have
played a part in his ex’s death. Brendan’s
search eventually leads him to a slippery, club-footed
drug dealer named The Pin and a sweetly naïve mother
who interrupts “business” to serve apple juice
and snacks. As The Pin, Lukas Haas is wonderfully creepy
in the kind of role Peter Lorre would have played.
plot is frustratingly confusing with countless minor characters
and many red herrings, but so were the best film noirs.
He doesn’t mimic the famous film style or go for
camp but instead gives a stylish and fun mash-up that
lends a much-needed shot of adrenalin to both the noir
and teen genres. “Brick” is gritty treat for
anyone who relishes classic film noir or high school,
(Updated 08/30/07 NJ)