Brick (2005) Poster


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Superficial flaws distract from its fundamental defects.
guitarbloke1 June 2007
There's so much bad to say about this movie, and so little space... a)World-weary cynicism works in 30-40 year olds. In kids this age, it's just irritating. b) No likable characters whatsoever c) No believable characters whatsoever d) All of the bad guys are straight out of "Bugsy Malone", but lose their appeal due to lack of Splat Guns. e) Plot that consists entirely of holes. The plot is also hamstrung by points b) and c) in that you really don't care what happens to the horrid little brats.

It's overly knowing, references films to which it's the palest of pale imitations, tediously shot, and it's fairly obvious that the only direction the actors were given were a bunch of magic markers and a pack of valium. Should not be watched by anyone under the age of 20 (will make them think they're cleverer than they really are) or over the age of 20 (risk of dangerously high blood pressure).
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Film Noir meets 90s High School flick
dylan-8922 March 2005
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.
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Outstanding detective film-noir
FritzdaCat5 February 2005
Warning: 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.
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extremely enjoyable and unique film!
non_cur16 October 2005
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.
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"Where do you eat lunch?" …
jaredmobarak22 July 2006
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 protagonist—hard and piercing, yet on the verge of tears—eyes 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 Zehetner—faces close- up, lips with an atom of air between them, and a single tear slowly following down the contours of her face—uncannily 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."
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Dick Laux23 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Why does everyone feel they must rave about a movie simply because it was not made by a major studio? This isn't just a movie about teenagers and starring teenagers, it looks as if teenagers wrote, produced, directed, filmed and edited it. Kids with a video camera could have made a film that looked better. There are way too many holes and credibility gaps in the story and far too many unsympathetic characters. They finally show Brendan in some pain, although he probably should have died from his untended to internal injuries a third of the way into the film, and the "profoundly moving" and carefully kept secret revealed at the end was hardly a secret, and not very meaningful. The use of a single key word as a title has become rather annoying, but there is a common street term for excrement used in the movie that would have served just as well.
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Transposing geography
El Gato-45 April 2006
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 contemporary teens.

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!
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Watching this is as enjoyable as taking a brick to the head...
chucknorrisfacts15 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This movie just kind of irritated me. I had heard how good it was, so I decided to go ahead and check it out on Netflix instant stream. I'm sorry I did now.

I don't know why this keeps happening to me lately where I keep running into movies that've been overly hyped.

I don't know what the deal is -- do people just want to like a movie so badly they say it's good even if it's not? Another movie that fits that bill for me right now was "Drive". Everybody kept talking about how good it was, and all I saw was a shameless rip off of "The Driver" starring Ryan O'Neal, except for the fact that "The Driver" was actually good while "Drive" put me to sleep.

I understand what this movie was trying to go for with the whole "neo-noir" thing, but I don't really think it succeeded. The dialogue was so garbled and incoherent, I could hardly understand what was being said.

I don't know what others saw in this, but I just wasn't impressed. At best, I'd give it probably a four or five out of ten. I don't recommend checking this movie out.
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Worst movie I've seen in years
hpmc64 October 2006
I tried stretching to watch this movie with an open mind, some 'arty' movies take a while to build toward a payoff. But the clues that were shown to me in this mystery pointed toward no payoff whatsoever, so I didn't finish it. It sucks. I hadn't heard much about the movie, so I was wondering 'is this an un-funny farce?'. I guess it isn't a farce, it's supposed to be a noir. It's a disaster.

Unbelievably pretentious dialog, and 'hipster' speech. I thought that kind of talk died in the 1970s.

The mindset of the teenagers, trying to put forth this 'world' they supposedly live in, in a high school setting just doesn't fly. It's like a very, very bad high school play, painfully aware that these are just kids trying to be something they're not, never have been, and never will be. Even high school at it's worst was never that bad. Seriously, this film gives you respect for the portrayal of high school in Beverly Hills 90201, which at least had *some* believability to it, even if you didn't like it. In most films, with good or bad acting, I'm generally not aware that they are acting. Not the case here.

Pretension takes an even worse form in the wardrobes. I didn't check the spoilers box, and I'm new at this, so I'll be vague. All I'll say, is that I stopped the film and gave up at the introduction of a character, who was dressed too stupid for me to watch. (those reading this who have seen the film probably can guess who I'm talking about, lets just say he made the film a CAPEr)

You've got to have some respect for the audience This director, clearly doesn't. As for those who say that people who didn't like the film 'didn't get it', ie, modern film noir, compare this to 'Match Point', made the same year. This film is just a very tired rip-off of whatever it was trying to reference.

The saddest thing is, since the film had popularity, there may be outsider kids who try to model some of this style in their own high schools, and it's going to take them down another notch they cant afford
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dhealey-117 May 2006
This film is nothing more than an example of someone trying to be clever and seriously failing, ending up being smothered by their own pretentiousness. I watched (endured, suffered, was tortured by) this film at the Deauville Film Festival in Sebtember 2005 and I can safely say that this was, without any doubt and by a very big margin, the worst offering that I saw all week and I have to say I've struggled to find anything worse since then, even when I leave the DVD choice to my 10 year old son. The film is dull, turgid, lifeless and shambolic, it provides no interest or excitement and was viewed by myself as a waste of 110 minutes of my existence. If you want to spend some money and waste a few hours, got to a bar, have a few drinks, believe me you'll enjoy yourself more. If looking at glowing images on a faraway wall that offer you no intellectual stimulation whatsoever without any hint or promise of enjoyment then this is the film for you. For myself, it was too much like group voluntary euthanasia and not an enjoyable experience.
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