Brick - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary from director Rian Johnson; Deleted and extended scenes; UK exclusive interview with Rian Johnson; Nora Zehetner and Noah Segan auditions; Rian Johnson video diary (UK exclusive); Junkyard Score: the making of the soundtrack (UK exclusive); Costume design (UK exclusive); Chickenscratch storyboards (UK exclusive); The Pin’s Den (music only) (UK exclusive); Theatrical trailer.
FIRST-time director Rian Johnson’s Brick is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable films of the year – as well as one of the most original.
Part High School drama, part Raymond Chandler-style thriller, the film functions as a smart neo-noir that keeps viewers guessing to the very final reel.
It also boasts one of the coolest characters in recent memory in the form of Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a single-minded outsider with a heart of gold whose outwardly geeky appearance conceals a fiercely determined hero-in-waiting.
After receiving a distraught phone call from his missing ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin), Brendan sets out to find her only to discover her corpse in an abandoned subway tunnel.
Keen to finger everyone responsible, Brendan enlists the help of his only true peer, Brain (Matt O’Leary), and sets about infiltrating a drug-dealing criminal group led by a non-student named The Pin (Lukas Haas), who in turn brings him into contact with rich-girl sophisticate Laura (Nora Zehetner) and all manner of violence-prone gang members.
But while it seems as through Brendan might be out of his depth, he quickly proves himself adept at keeping one step ahead of his adversaries, as well as being able to mix it up physically.
Brick takes its cues from a number of movies, from the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing to Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, as well as the novels of Dashiell Hammett (Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon).
But its genius lies in the director’s decision to set proceedings inside a High School rather than populating his film with Humphrey Bogart style hard-men.
Hence, audiences are confronted with a film noir that’s every bit as tough and challenging as LA Confidential as well as a coming-of-age tale that’s hip enough to appeal to the American Pie brigade and a distinctive approach that’s as imaginative as Donnie Darko.
The obscure dialogue – cops are referred to as “bulls” and “duck soup” means easy pickings – could also appear as overly pretentious but once you get into the rhetoric it all adds to the unique overall feel.
Performance-wise, the film delivers the goods with the likes of O’Leary, Haas and Zehetner revelling in the complexity of their characters.
But it’s the rapidly-emerging Gordon-Levitt who deserves the most credit for the way in which he quietly transforms a seemingly unassuming loner into one of the smartest and toughest kids on the block.
His intelligent double-dealing ensures that everyone gets what’s coming to them, while the way in which he handles some of the film’s tougher characters (especially a man with a knife) has to be seen to be believed.
But then everything about Brick rings out class – from the sharp sound editing to its own distinct sense of style.
It means that director Johnson has laid down some extremely promising building blocks for his own future.
Running time: 110 minutes