2006 - R - 110 Mins.
|Director: Rian Johnson|
|Producer: Ram Bergman, Mark G. Mathis|
|Written By: Rian Johnson|
|Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss, Matt O'Leary,Emilie de Ravin |
|Review by: Chris Beaumont
|Official Site: www.brickmovie.net/|
On the surface this movie is a high school drama about someone looking for the truth behind the murder of his estranged girlfriend. It is not a terribly original plot thread to follow, we have seen it, or variations of it for years. What makes this film so markedly different are the stylistic choices made by first time writer/director Rian Johnson.
Face off in a high schooler's basement, aka Clique Wars.
He has taken this simple on the surface plot and applied the logic, dialog, and general style of the hardboiled gumshoe stories of the 1930's. The movie is played straight, there are some humorous segments, but the characters take everything deadly serious. Some films would collapse under the weight of thi undertaking, but Johnson is admirable keeps everything focused on the story, every scene, every word, every movement, all adding to the slowly unfolding of the tapestry, revealing more and more as it goes on.
The movie is also odd in that I felt absolutely no emotional connection to the characters. I have felt this way about other movies, but this time was different. Usually, when there are no connections to be had, there is little to like about the movie. Generally speaking, movies need to have some sort of emotional connection with the viewer to have any sort of impact and staying power. Somehow, this film had me enraptured for its entire running time. The combination of setting and style came together in a perfect balance, and with the pitch perfect acting to support it only further cements the film.
I loved the way the dialog rolled off their tongues. The words were so much slang, so many words with different meanings. At times, it was hard to truly know just what they were saying. The film's official site even has a partial glossary of terms used in the movie. Most of the definitions can be inferred by way of context and the events that unfold later will open up the meanings of what happened earlier.
The gumshoe of the piece is Brendan Frye, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Mysterious Skin), he aims to shake things up, see what comes loose in his quest. He becomes embroiled in the local drug trade. We find that Brendan excels at stirring up trouble and gathering information, he also shows that he comes in first in the ability to take a beating. He partners up with a fellow student, known only as Brain (Matt O'Leary), who stays in the background, gathering covert information and filling the role of backup. Brendan has to deal the femme fatale, Kara (Meagan Good, who pulls some of the needed strings. He moves up the line to the Pin (Lukas Haas), the man in charge of the crime ring, who takes the time to be served milk and cookies by his mother. There is also the hired muscle, in the person of Tugger (Noah Fleiss).
Rian Johnson has crafted an incredible film, one that has nothing but promise on display. He has taken the conventions of film noir and placed them in a modern day high school, and made it feel so natural. But more than the dialog and the fine acting, the film is visually interesting too, credit must be paid to Steve Yedlin in this regard. The shot composition and angles chosen all add to the forward thinking originality. The rather stark setting is made a character of its own through the shot choices.
Bottomline. Brick caught me off guard. I was expecting something good, or at least potential to be. What I got was an intriguing blend of new and old. Influences from different genres, different eras, all tossed in a blender with an added dose of original vision. The blended concoction will serve as many as will have it, and seems destined to find life on the cult circuit.