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OK...I have never actually commented on a movie on IMDb, but this movie was so great I really felt I had to let people know about it. When I first read the synopsis of Brick at Sundance I was immediately interested in seeing it. "Film Noir set in a high school." I started hearing really terrible reviews of it and almost did not go until the very last day I could. I am so glad I did. It is a very unique film, such a refreshing one for people who have seen it all. So if you want something new and different you will definitely enjoy this. Others may find it is too over-the top for them--it took me several minutes to understand what the characters were even saying at first, in their language that mixed old film noir slang with the new generation of slang. Its very dark and the sound design will even make a person feel uneasy. The director linked sound and image in ways I have never seen, completely enthralling me from beginning to end. This movie is not a relaxing ride. oh! but there are great comedic and ironic moments as well! I think a lot of the criticism I heard of this film was that it was too incomprehensible and unbelievable. I personally really got into the world of this film and it had me on the edge of my seat until the very end. It was so enjoyable to buy into the rules of the film noir/high school drama world and its characters. I did not even recognize the lead character as that kid from 3rd Rock until the end! I hated 3rd Rock, but I absolutely loved and believed in his character here. I loved it! One of my top picks at Sundance this year. sorry I have never written a review...I hope this reveals something about the movie. I really, really hope that it gets released soon! It is one of those interesting movies that could really be a cult classic.
I saw this film at a sneak preview the other night not knowing what to expect. To say the least I was pleasantly surprised. Film Noir being one of my favorite film genre's, "Brick" follows the same story structure, odd-ball characters, right down to the very smart and quick paced dialogue of a 30s/40s hard boiled detective thriller. The twist that lifts it above parody and even a mere homage is the presentation of these elements with high school kids in Southern California. The direction by Rian Johnson is very expert and confident in telling the story, giving the audience smooth and quick editing along with skewed and distorted camera angles. He manages to maintain suspense throughout the film, only in a couple of parts letting it drag (the scenes with the Drama Queen are some of the weakest). The actors are great, the most memorable being the "villains" Pen and Tugger. Rather than just being atypical baddies, their portrayals give them depth, sympathy, and at the same time a degree of likability. Kudos also goes to the actor who played Brain, the partner of Frye, who is nearly flawless in his somewhat small role. John Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree, shows up as the Vice Principal, but it is obvious they only had the budget to hire him for one day. I have to say this isn't a classic film by any means; I merely decided to give it such a high rating because it attempts something different and succeeds fairly successfully. I've been tired of the mundane films that get released every year, and for once this is something that is completely different; the use of archetypal characters in the setting and delivery not expected. It's a low budget film, but it is obvious to me that that this filmmaker will be heard from again. Keep an eye out.
This is a film I have been highly anticipating for over a year. After
first hitting the festival circuit in January of 2005 it went through
the cycles, finally getting a stateside limited release at the end of
March 2006. Buffalo, I ask you now to open your eyes to a masterpiece
of cinema as Brick finally debuts at the Amherst Dipson.
Brick is a not a film as much as a symphony where each instrument is tuned to the beat of the conductor. Each frame is carefully orchestrated and composed to perfection. The dialogue is metered and spoken with a contemporary Shakespearean beat. Writer/Director Rian Johnson has created poetry with his first feature length film. It may be tough to understand the lingo and overall speech used, but as the film advances you begin to know the characters and the words just make complete sense.
We open with the stare of our protagonisthard and piercing, yet on the verge of tearseyes slowly welling up as he peers down on a motionless body, facedown in a tunnel's steady, flowing stream. This is film noir at its best: wrong men and notorious women. Our leader into this underbelly of society has recently rolled on his boss to skate clean of a drug deal he was involved with. The cops allow this plea and decide to keep him in their pocket, with what happened as leverage. He stays low, nose clean, until an old love brings him into her world as it's spiraling out of control. Using all his resources around the city, he begins his search to find her and make sure she is OK. He does this for his own means, with a stoicism that hearkens back to Bogart's Sam Spade.
Wait Did I tell you that the city this is set in is a suburban high school? Johnson has flipped the genre on its head to brilliant effect. Brendan, our medium into the story, is played to perfection by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a senior at the school who has alienated himself by ratting on his drug supplier. The vice-principal is using him to gain intel on the dealings around school, but Brendan will have none of it. He needs to find out what happened to his old flame Emily and see what she got involved in. Enlisting the help of a colleague, Brendan plays his enemies off each other to gain access to the mob boss and dope runner The Pin ("I hear he's supposed to be old, like 26"), whom Emily has wronged. The truth must be found at all costs, either to assuage some personal guilt, to rescue love, to do what's right, to get the bad guys, or maybe all the above. The search for answers leads to betrayal and secrets uncovered and I was there for the entire ride.
Brick is not the 21st century's answer to Alan Parker's Bugsy Malone. This isn't a satire on mob life with children playing men. This is a reawakening of the genre, a subversion of what you expect of it, but played straight as a razor. None of these actors break character and lines like this, echoing a hardened criminal telling off an over-zealous officer, "No more of these informal chats! If you have a disciplinary issue with me, write me up or suspend me and I'll see you at the Parent-Teacher conference," are delivered with straight faces and a piercing confidence. The wit is there and you will laugh to the seeming absurdity, but the weight of the story holds strong. Well-placed humor helps you realize the gravity of everything even more.
Levitt shines in the role and proves to be the best up-and-coming actor of his generation. Following pitch-perfect turns as a violent teen in the wonderful Manic and as a teenage hustler, vagrant in Gregg Araki's disturbing yet unforgettable Mysterious Skin, Levitt is making bold choices and continues a great run with Brick. He is flanked with solid support from "Lost's" Emilie de Ravin as his lost love; Lukas Hass as The Pin, with loyalty straying muscle Noah Fleiss; Matt O'Leary's The Brain, Brendan's life-line to what's happening as he sinks deeper; and Nora Zehetner flawlessly playing the femme fatale which one can never be sure whether to trust. Also, the accompanying score of piano and brass jazz fits perfectly to the atmosphere, especially on a late scene close-up shot of Levitt and Zehetnerfaces close- up, lips with an atom of air between them, and a single tear slowly following down the contours of her faceuncannily mimicking the infamous shot of Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca.
Any cinephile with $8 to spend will regret missing an opportunity to see this film. If you love film noir of the 50's, 60's, and 70's check Brick out while you can. Doubtful that it will stay up more than 2 or 3 weeks, it will be coming to DVD on August 8th, however go out and see this gem. It will not be everyone's cup of tea, but whether you love it or not, it holds a place on the timeline of cinema as an experiment in stripping down the essence of noir and showing it in a new and no longer angelic world of children on the cusp of adulthood. "Here's looking at you kid."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Brick Opening shot: A young man squats next to a stream, his head in
his hands. What is he looking at? The body of a young woman, lying half
in the stream. Next we jump to 2 days before, to follow Brendan (Joseph
Gordon-Levitt), an intelligent, cynical high school student,
self-exiled from the cliquish world of jocks, stoners, and socialites.
He is stoically heart-broken 2 months after being dumped by his
girlfriend Emily (Emilie DeRavin), who left him to pursue that world. A
frightened phone call from the missing Emily asking for help and filled
with incoherent references to a "brick" and "the pin" prompts Brendan
to launch back into high school society. He does this in the movie
detective style of Sam Spade ("The Maltese Falcon"), shaking things up
with a relentless directness punctuated by well-timed acts of cunning.
Once found, Emily recants and asks Brendan to forget everything she
said. Of course, we know from the opening scene that things aren't
going to go well for Emily, and by this point we also know that Brendan
isn't likely to back off from anything.
After Emily's death, Brendan starts looking for answers in earnest, slicing through high school society and the underbelly of suburban California like a weedwacker. Much like the detectives played by Humphrey Bogart in "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep" this battered tough-guy keeps shaking the tree until the answers he wants fall out. His search leads him to the rich femme fatale Laura Dannon (Nora Zehetner), an underworld kingpin (Lukas Haas), and a handful of assorted thugs in a completely amoral teenage world. Battered physically and emotionally, he maintains his cool while playing all sides against each other in an effort to achieve some justice for the girl he loved.
In "Brick," writer/director Rian Johnson pays homage in wonderful style to the classics of noir fiction. Setting the story in the world of high-schoolers allows him to make use of classic detective story characters without seeming redundant. We have a beautiful seductress with ambiguous motives, a dangerous vamp (played brilliantly by Meagan Good, which sounds like a porno name for some reason), a crime boss and his hired muscle, and even a Vice Principal who fills the role of the police captain. Of course, Brendan is the classic loner private eye, moving through a world of scum but never allowing the dirt to get under his skin.
Language is both the strength and weakness of "Brick." Johnson drew heavily from the fiction of Dashiell Hammet (creator of Sam Spade) when writing the film, and that spare, 1940's style permeates the dialog. Suffice to say that these kids do not talk like high-schoolers. That's fine, because a stylized manner of speech suits these extremely cool, stylized characters and sets the proper mood. On the other hand, while the story of "Brick" is not wildly original, it is an excellent, riveting piece of noir fiction which deserves to be appreciated on its own merits and not just in reference to old Bogart movies. The Bogartesque lingo is entertaining, but it occasionally distracts from the story. Also, the linguistic style may simply be confusing and off-putting to audiences not familiar with the older films on which it is based.
Interestingly, none of the principal cast members were familiar with the literary and film sources from which their characters were drawn. This is remarkable, because their characterizations are so dead on, and given without a trace of the self-conscious irony that so often passes for wit. Joe Gordon-Levitt in particular deserves to be a star after this performance. He appears in every scene of the film, channeling the best of Humphrey Bogart.
"Brick" won a special Jury Prize at Sundance, and my understanding is that it has, in fact, been picked up for distribution. I suspect that despite its quality, it may have difficulty finding an audience. I hope I am wrong, because it was by far the best film I have seen this year. 5 out of 5 stars.
The geography of film noir is usually a neighborhood, a city, a region
... BRICK transposes this geography onto a high school with
surprisingly successful results. Watching it brought to mind not only
the black & white films of the 40s and 50s, but glimmers of Gus van
Sant, David Lynch and River's Edge. What gives BRICK its filmic
authenticity (much different from realism) is its language -- the
language of Chandler and Hammett, but re-imagined from the lips of
The effect is staggering. BRICK essentially re-creates a world we thought we knew. Suddenly there are forces at work that we recognize because we knew they were there. But to see them in this noir glow is to give them an exciting new life ... "to see them again for the first time." There are plot twists and surprises aplenty here, although familiar once you realize the inspirations for the film. But familiarity is more than compensated by a superb cast and (not generally noted in these comments) excellent music. Contemporizing the soundtrack keeps us on our toes and makes a significant contribution to the tension of BRICK.
A terrific debut!
'Brick' is a film noir murder mystery featuring contemporary high
school students who talk and behave like 1940's-style gangsters.
I hastily bought a ticket to 'Brick' at the Sundance Film Festival, knowing nothing about it but what was written in the Sundance catalog. I almost didn't go to the 9:15am screening but I am so glad I did. 'Brick' was by far the best of the eight films I'd seen up until then. It's one of those rare movies that keeps me grinning throughout, delighted by every turn of the grim plot.
The slang is thick but contextual. Watch closely for little camera tricks like a clock that reads 5:45 until it comes into focus and suddenly reads 8:30.
Just saw this at the Chi. International Film Festival, and must say it was the best feature film that I have seen all year. Excellent tribute to the noir genre, with sort of a Raymond Chandler-esquire slant to the dialog, a sort of hard-boiled type protagonist, and the typical twists, turns and double crosses that come with the territory. All this while taking place within the confines of a modern California high-school social scene. Somehow manages to walk the line of homage, send-up, and original film incredibly well. Parts were edge-of-your seat, parts had me cringing with pain or shock, and parts had me in stitches. Well worth seeing.
That's the story, right? Going back to the days of "China Town" with Jack Nicholson chasing lead after lead, turning corners left and right, only to find more corners. Who's duping who? We don't know until the very end in this fast-paced, hipster lingo drenched wild revival of the classic Black and White Film Noir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (yes, the kid from Third Rock) is a brilliant hero/foil as Brendan, the bitingly dry, quick-witted, scrappy and yet reluctant detective trying to walk his way through a web of lies, more lies, murder and lots of missing drugs. His character is bright, he can read a situation like a psychic on crack, turn things to his favor in seconds and play people as deftly as he is ultimately played himself. ...And he can take a punch. The plot turns this way, then that, keeping you constantly guessing as to where it will take you next. As soon as you think you know what's going on, you don't. Nora Zehetner is a beautiful and beguiling femme fatale. "The Brian" (Matt O'Leary), who is constantly feeding Brendan his facts and keeping him on track, knows his stuff but never let's you know how. Rian Johnson has written an amazing script and directed it into a whirlwind experience of near misses, painful betrayal and love/love lost. The lingo takes a second to catch. I'm reminded of Swingers, had it been as thrilling as it was funny. The words fall into place and give the film a slick, quick delivery like the best exchanges between Bogart and Bergman, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Take all that and drop it into a dark, starkly brutal modern world... In a high school, of all places. There's even some quirky humor thrown in, though most of the laughs from the audience were really nervous release from all the tension built into the story. A must see.
An instant classic. At once, it demands respect for its efforts.
Creating an original film amidst the money-press-like formulaic
cookie-cutters is reminiscent an act of rebellion against "the man",
and this film has done a beautiful job of sticking it to 'em.
This is just an example of how a movie should be made, and I don't say things like that lightly.
Hell, you know it's going to be interesting when Neilson can only compare and contrast it with things like Memento and Donnie Darko on their little questionnaire. Rock on for intelligent life out there, keep it coming! I for one can't wait till it's released so I can watch for the things I know I missed! -Cognac
This is an EXCELLENT and delightfully surprising movie. Its style is refreshing, its dialoque fascinating, the performances powerful, and the story is both energetic and fun. I just caught this movie at the sundance film festival and can't help hoping that A LOT more people get to see it. The amazing attention to detail by Rian Johnson (the writer/director) and the incredible performances by Haas, Zehetner, and especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt marks this very commendable film. I remember sitting in the theater before the film started, completely disappointed by the last two films I had seen the night before. I truly wasn't expecting to be wowed or even awake, but from the very first scene I had to keep "my specs peeled". We just don't get to experience the feel of this movie anymore. I highly recommend it once it's out.
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