Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: contains medium level violence
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan Frye
Nora Zehetner as Laura Dannon
Lukas Haas as the Pin
Noah Fleiss as Tugger
Matt O’Leary as The Brain
Emilie de Ravin as Emily Kostich
Noah Segan as Dode
Richard Roundtree as Assistant V.P. Trueman
Director: Rian Johnson
After receiving a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, teenage loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that her dead body has been found. Vowing to solve her murder himself, he must infiltrate high-school cliques that he previously avoided. His search for the truth places him before some of the school’s roughest characters, leading to a confrontation with a drug dealer known as “the Pin (Lukas Haas).”
Brick is a movie I’ve heard about for a while and have been meaning to watch. Having seen Rian Johnson’s Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I’ve wanted to check out his first movie even more. All I basically knew about is that it was some kind of noire movie set at a high school and starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role. Brick was a really great neo-noire mystery, and I’m really glad that I finally got around to seeing it.
There are so many parts of the movie that shouldn’t work at all, it certainly doesn’t seem to on paper. You wouldn’t think that placing a detective and noire plot set inside the setting of a high school would work at all, however it did. Oddly enough, for the most part, Brick seems to be playing everything completely straight instead of making it a comedy. The detective, the femme fatale, the kingpin/boss, a mystery, the way the characters talk and the dialogue they deliver, a bittersweet ending, all the typical tropes that are in a classic noire movie are mixed in with this plot and you can actually take it seriously at the same time. Occasionally there are scenes which are much more humorous in nature, which at least shows that Johnson and the film are self aware, while not going so far as to detract from the seriousness of the rest of the plot. I guess Brick is a satire of the genre, but instead of making it a comedy like you’d think they would, they instead take it for a darker turn. It’s also a genuinely well written movie, despite many of the familiar tropes, the twists are good and you can’t necessarily predict where the plot is going to go or what is going to happen. It’s not just using the satire aspect as a gimmick. Johnson’s writing really makes this work, there are a lot of elements at play that don’t seem like they would quite fit together easily. The ending as well was great, and fitted rather well considering the rest of the movie.
Most of the actors here you don’t really recognise, however they are mostly good in their roles (with the occasional performance not as great as some others). There are two highlights among them though. The first of them is Joseph Gordon Levitt, the most famous and recognisable of the cast. Levitt plays the role like the classic detective seen in classic noire movies, and he manages to make it work and you can actually take it seriously. He gives one of his best performances, and that’s really saying a lot. The other standout is Nora Zehetner, whose character seems more in the femme fatale sort of role.
You can tell that it’s a lower budgeted movie, and in fact it’s just at $450,000. However, Rian Johnson did a lot with very little, and his style works exceptionally well for a debut. He clearly knows what he’s doing behind the camera, it is a very well shot movie. Again, the detective and noire tropes are conveyed very well here, as the familiar types of shots seen in said movies are present here too. Even the music played here are reminiscent of classic noires.
Brick showed off Rian Johnson’s talents pretty early on and was a great neo-noire and a good movie on its own. The cast was good (particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and it’s written and directed very well by Johnson. Although I do think a couple of his other movies are a little better, it’s worth a watch for sure.