I start by asking: how did I not know about Brick for so long? I’m a Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan and am quite surprised that this 2005 film slipped below my radar. But then I did discover it on a “Top Ten Underappreciated Films” list, so perhaps I was never destined to find it on its first (limited) release.
Take the plot, dialogue and style of a 30s crime-noir, with a hard-nosed detective, a femme fatale, drug lords and enigmatic informants, and transpose it all to a modern-day High School. Then, when it could have so easily gone to satire, instead play it straight. This is what Brick does, and its success is a measure of how hard director Rian Johnson and his cast work to keep all the familiar noir elements working together.
The film opens, as they often do, with hard-nosed high school dick Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gazing down at a dead body, his ex, who we discover two days ago called him in a panic. In classic noir style he follows the tracks to find the killer, shaking up the local crime syndicate, shaking down the guys and dolls, standing up to law enforcement (the Vice Principal) and of course, running into a femme fatale.
We never see a wink or a smirk from any of the players. Everything is earnest and done to style, even down to camera angles. It’s nearly all about style here, to the point where we don’t really care that much about the characters, but since that is a common feature of noir films, it’s par for the course.
This film is surely a cult classic for those who appreciate such things, and would definitely be a topic of conversation in the hipster set. Worth your time.