"Whatever befalls you I'll deal with. Just tell me about the trouble with the brick, the pin."
Brick is writer and director, Rian Johnson's, feature debut which he delivered with great craftsmanship and an original and unique vision. Despite having seen Looper first, I think Brick is still Johnson's best film and most impressive one. It has a very original and smart concept which I haven't seen played out so well an any other film. Brick has all the classic noir conventions of films from the 30's like The Maltese Falcon, but it is set in a very different and drastic manner. So in a way Brick has a similar mood and atmosphere of classic film noir, but by setting the film in a modern day South Cal High School it shares elements with traditional teen dramas. The combination of these two very different genres makes for a very innovative and provocative film. The characters and dialogues in this film are very stylized and it does require the audience to pay close attention in order to understand what is going on, but if you put effort into following it closely you will be rewarded. Brick is a very cool movie that could have gone terribly wrong due to the genre mashups, but thanks to some great performances and interesting dark twists it really is an outstanding debut.
Brick is a classic detective story that takes place in a local High School where a teenage loner named Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sets out to solve a crime involving the murder of his ex girlfriend, Emily (Emilie de Ravin). A few months after breaking up with him, Emily got involved with some drug dealers at school and Brendan suspects that they are responsible. With the help of the Brain (Matt O'Leary), his information man, Brendan begins following a few leads and infiltrating the high school underworld. His first clue leads him to Laura (Nora Zehetner), who is the femme fatale who he doesn't fully rely on. Eventually he makes his way to meeting the crime ring boss known as The Pin (Lukas Haas) and the muscle of his operation, Tug (Noah Fleiss). Brendan makes his way through these different groups involving gangs, drug dealers, hit-men, and so on, willing to risk his life because he's driven by love and wants to unravel the entire web of corruption in his high school.
Just like there are sub groups in every high school, Johnson takes this concept and mixes it with the known groups in detective and noir film so instead of having jocks and nerds you have drug dealers, femme fatales, rats, crime lords, junkies, and hit-men. In a way the film takes those elements and makes a satire out of them, but surprisingly doing so by giving it a dark turn instead of taking the easy way out and making a comedy out of it. The lingo-heavy language may be difficult and off putting for some, but it really helped set the unique tone of this film which garnered Johnson a Special Jury prize for Originality of Vision at Sundance. Much of the success of this film can be attributed to the outstanding performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt who turns in a very convincing performance despite the fact that the dialogue doesn't seem to match up with the setting. Having seen these elements fail many times (for me personally) in several modern Shakespeare adaptations, I was surprised at how well this film actually pulls it off. Brick is a great film offering interesting twists and a thrilling detective story which we become a part of as we try to solve the mystery along with Brendan following each new lead.