Friday, May 22, 2009

"Brick" - one of the best of the best

"Brick" is my favorite movie from 2006. I heard the Sundance buzz about this indie masterpiece on, and eagerly waited six months for its arthouse release. The hype did not hamper my enjoyment of this film - I have seldom been more impressed and entertained by a movie.

The flick is about a California high school student who is drawn into a dangerous mystery. Brendan's a smart loner, played brilliantly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. A message in his locker directs him to a payphone. There he receives a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend (Emilie De Ravin from "LOST").

He can scarcely understand the words she says, but her tone screams "frantic and fearful." Brendan then tries to figure out what sort of trouble she's in, as he runs up against jocks, drug-heads, scandalously pretty girls, and thugs. But helping her - in the way either he or she wants - is going to be Herculean feat.

This is about as far from a cute teen film as you can get. Our young hero is very much a Humphrey Bogart-type, a hard-boiled kid with a soft spot for a woman who touched and broke his heart. He's very much the Sam Spade man, cracking wise to his enemies, risking a severe beating just to prove something. This is no accident, as this film is patterned off of film noir.

Attributes from one of my favorite films, "The Big Sleep," are strong here. The characters are all very deep, and their interactions are rich. Every role conveys true human traits and weaknesses - flaws that make them fascinating, yet realistic.

This makes the teenage characters perfectly stand in as adult figures - the stakes of their young lives (or the seriousness they bring to those stakes) is never undercut; this holds despite the fact that they all live at home and can't legally drink. Imagine the movie "Heathers" if it only had two real adults, appearing very briefly.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the finest young actors today. He, and the extremely talented cast centered on him, is magnificent with the tight, but complicated, script. The complexity does not rest solely on the vibrant, deep, figures played by the actors.

It's in the basic language of the script itself, because "Brick" is a movie with its own lexicon, like "Clockwork Orange." "A yeg" means "a guy," "a pick" is "a ride," and "bulls" stands for "cops." The language is used often, but not constantly, though even this may be too much for some - in fact, the Angelika Theater gave me a little pamphlet with a glossary and promotional stills.

For my part, the new slang was a welcome addition, and helped add authenticity to the world played out before me. And it reflects even better on the work of Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Meagan Good, and the rest of this excellent cast.

Rian Johnson directs his own screenplay, in his own hometown - on the basis of this film alone, you can see that he is incredibly talented with words and visuals. The cast, which includes Richard Roundtree and Lukas Haas, all worked for little pay so they could be in this.

That "Brick" was made for under $500,000 is astounding, as the low budget is not reflected in any aspect of the film. It was a fortunate stroke that every studio passed on this film, that Rian had to go to friends and family for financing. This picture surely would have suffered from studio interference, or the anti-creativity that can spring from large budgets (see any Michael Bay film).

I cannot recommend this movie more highly. It's the sole reason I will see Johnson's second film, "The Brothers Bloom" - it's out now, and stars Rachel Weiss, Adrien Brody, and Mark Ruffalo.


  1. I loved this movie also, though many people did not. Great advance poster, also.

  2. Yeah, I forgot about the poster. As to the response to the movie, I can only assume that some folks were turned off by the dialogue. It must have felt like "audio subtitles" to many. Then again, I like subtitles.


Chime in!