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Overall Rating
4.16

Awesome53.16%
Worth A Look: 29.11%
Just Average: 2.53%
Pretty Crappy: 11.39%
Sucks: 3.8%

8 reviews, 31 user ratings


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Brick
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by PaulBryant

"Gumshoes in high-tops."
5 stars

Brick is the kind of genre-melding film that has so much wit and freshness that it is either destined to become an instant cult flick like Napoleon Dynamite, or an underground discovery that will take some time to grow into the stature it deserves. Either way, it is destined for a following, and doubtless a series of insipid copycats. It is a film that could only be made when the director and the writer are either the same person, or are energetically suckling from the same neo-noir feeding tube. Here, Rian Johnson fills both of the main authorship roles, and the startlingly clever debut film he creates immediately makes him an auteur to watch.

Brick is most certainly going to be labeled a film noir. Now, the expression “film noir” is one I have grown to dislike, seeing as it’s thrown about pell-mell at movies which don’t conform at all to its original meaning. Of course, this problem can’t really be helped, seeing as the phrase traces its popularity back to those French critics of Cahiers du Cinema, and since then has been as broadly translated and incorrectly utilized as the equally ambiguous term “auteur”. The largely accepted chronological definition of what “film noir” is is that it more or less began with The Maltese Falcon in 1941, and came to a triumphant end with Touch of Evil in 1958. This is a fair enough assessment (even though Sam Fuller and other greats kept making many fine noirish movies after Touch) and it is an assessment which suits Brick very well, as Rian Johnson’s brilliant script seems to most resemble these classic bookends of noir cinema.

However, noir or not, within the first few minutes Brick almost had me making up my mind on the picture in negative spirit. Upon virgin ears, the film’s rhythmic, self-referential, occasionally rhyming dialogue seemed genetically spawned from Dawson’s Creek's pseudo-intellectual teenagers who talk about nothing, but talk about nothing like no other. The first scenes include a telephone conversation with the young main character, Brendan, chatting with his ex-girl; and because the camera never cuts to her side of the argument (and because his dialogue seems flowery, enigmatic and seething with pretension) his words at first sound unbearably self-indulgent.

I was instantly worried Brick was going to wander down the well-trodden trail of films that lull audiences to sleep with teenage anguish and sorrowful lovesickness. Not long after this poor judgment, I would look forward to the film’s many phone conversations, as soon as it became apparent that Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Brendan) is a joy to watch and, more accurately, a joy to listen to as he casually tosses back dialogue into the receiver with the irreverence and crackle-pop-snap of a Howard Hawksian newspaper man.

The story is nice and pulpy, set into motion by Levitt’s desire to save an ex-girlfriend (whom he appears to be still in love with) from squandering her life with drugs and lowlifes. Still in high school, Brendan must work his way through bullies, teachers, parents and other “grownups” in order to save his damsel in distress. He’s a loner, an outcast, trying hard to survive in a world of grit and grimaces. He’s like Richard Widmark with a poetic soul and a hoody. A hardboiled moralist, he's out to save the girl, knock the quarterback off his popularity-pedestal, use guys like the teenage drug lord called “The Pin” (Lukas Haas) against his other enemies, and fend off the advances of femme fatales whose intentions are as sultry as they are sinister. He’s a man (a boyish man, at least) on a righteous mission; somewhere between Don Quixote and John Garfield, if they'd been around in the era of Marilyn Manson.

And our hero's got the lingo down, too. In an homage to Chandlereque witticisms, instead of saying he’s tired, our main character says “I got knives in my eyes; gotta go sleep one off.” Or later, a more cryptic and amusing way of chewing the fat with his conspirator, The Brain (Matt O’Leary, who turns in the most superb supporting performance), Brendan instructs him to “make sure to keep a low profile, The Pin is staying underground on this one.” The dialogue is ripe with this kind of sharp and subtle punning, and it’s delivered by adolescents who seem to have spent too much time either boning up on Dashiell Hammett, or soaking in John Huston.

Then, of course, there’s the film’s resemblance to Touch of Evil. Not since Orson Welles’s lofty B-picture can I remember a film that seemed to tap into the iambic pentameter of Shakespearian rhythms whilst telling a low-brow, seedy crime drama. The fascination of the movie is, of course, that these hyper-stylized intonations are resurrected by a bunch of high school kids who aggrandize themselves – as high schoolers tend to do – into kingpin drug lords like The Pin, and hard-ass altruists like our main character. From here, the laughs come hard and loud when the head drug-dealer’s mom serves him milk and cookies while he sits with his regal cape and ornate walking stick. And we chuckle just as heartily when Brendan’s quest to do-what-a-man’s-gotta-do is interrupted by a trip to the principal’s office.

If you get on the film’s wavelength, Brick will be a fantastically enjoyable ride. You may even, like this reviewer, desire to see it twice to get a better grasp of the plot; but if this is so, you’ll know the only reason you couldn’t follow every narrative thread during the first viewing is because the hot-potato dialogue was so infectiously overwhelming. And there are very few movies one can say that about these days.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11215&reviewer=364
originally posted: 04/08/06 23:21:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2005 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Deep Focus Film Fest For more in the 2006 Deep Focus Film Fest series, click here.

User Comments

9/02/08 Shaun Wallner This one was kinda boring. 2 stars
6/21/08 Jeffrey G I kept having the feeling that Brick was occuring in the same alternative universe as Buffy 5 stars
6/06/08 PAUL SHORTT A FASCINATING AND COMPELLING EXPERIMENT WORTH SEEING 4 stars
4/26/07 Heather Schroeder Loved it, The Pin is my master 5 stars
1/19/07 Bitchflaps Dense, detailed narrative, but boring and feels like a comic book. Performances 2nd rate. 2 stars
12/12/06 MP Bartley Perhaps not as fun as it should be, but it's absorbing and terrifically well acted. 4 stars
11/10/06 Ryan_A Densely plotted but REALLY good. Gordon-Levitt's spectacular. 5 stars
10/02/06 Mark rubbish 1 stars
9/25/06 Indrid Cold Ole Man Bourbon says it perfectly. 3 stars
9/25/06 K.Sear I don't normally like Film Noir but this one had enough of a twist to entertain me. 5 stars
9/22/06 Paul If you like Noir, you'll love this film. Much better than Lucky Number Slevin. 5 stars
9/10/06 Cindy R-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s --style for style's sake does not a good movie make 1 stars
9/07/06 Lorna Brick is amazing. I was very impressed with the dialogue and the actors. 5 stars
9/03/06 Jenny Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor! 4 stars
8/28/06 dreher excellent; they had the talk down perfectly 5 stars
8/27/06 Ole Man Bourbon Starts off promisingly, then appears to be pretty silly, then becomes tedious. 3 stars
8/27/06 Naka Stunning, brilliant, complex...what more can you ask for? 5 stars
8/13/06 Phil M. Aficionado Bizarre enough to be memorable, but not worth understanding or remembering. 2 stars
8/11/06 Mike Stewart Geart Movie 5 stars
8/10/06 E. Leo Green A great movie - This from someone who was going to '40's noir films IN the '40s. 5 stars
6/24/06 Shaun I've never seen a movie quite like this - amazing 5 stars
6/07/06 Roger Mortimer Unbelievably bad - approaching "Broken Flowers" levels of crapness and pretentiousness 1 stars
6/04/06 Kacey Great film 5 stars
6/02/06 San Lamar thought provoking 5 stars
5/08/06 lubink loved movie and loved gordon-levitt-interesting view of adolescence. 5 stars
4/29/06 mr.mike well done treat for '40s noir fans 4 stars
4/22/06 Mase Sly,smart, teen movie for adults. May not entertain everyone but creative, bold vision. 4 stars
4/19/06 merpip definitely the highlight of my movie viewing experiences this year... 5 stars
4/16/06 Jamie I absolutely loved it 5 stars
4/07/06 sulky Levitt is the most exciting star of the future! 5 stars
1/23/05 Doug Minton Saw twice ..first night venue sound system weak, film is engaging, fast paced grip , funny 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  31-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 08-Aug-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  10-Aug-2006




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