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2005 mystery film that takes place in a high school

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A contradiction but it works: Deadpan noir with teenagers, led by the excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt

  • Feb 21, 2011
Here's what the deal is: "I'll have my boys check your tale. Seeing how it stretches, we'll either rub or hire you. You'll know which by the end of the day tomorrow." And, "Drop me off at school."
Brick, an independent movie written and directed by Rian Johnson, is part stunt, part style and part energetic riff on gumshoe movies. Movie references are dropped like names but with more subtlety. It takes place in and around an affluent, sunny Southern California high school populated by the usual prom queens, rockers, vamps, brains, thugs and drug dealers. This is a Thirties gangster movie with all the clichés, played straight but with almost everyone a teen. You have to keep asking yourself, is this just a parody? Well, not exactly. It's...it's...it's part stunt, part style and part energetic riff on gumshoe movies. Rian Johnson, who graduated from USC's School of Cinema-Television in 1996, knows what he's doing. The tough acting is deadpan; the dialogue is quick, clever and loaded with jargon; things are said so quickly you'd better keep track of context.
What could have been just another tiresome melodrama of teen angst turns into a sort-of-serious crackpot tribute to old gangster movies. It works so well not just because Johnson is unusually gifted and slightly off the wall, but because of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays the tough-talking, resourceful and relentless Brendan Frye. He may be a teen, but Brendan also is Sam Spade, George Raft, the Continental Op, you name it. This particular homage covers a lot of Thirties ground. It all starts when Brendan, a classic high school loner, finds his former girl friend he still has feelings for is in trouble. She calls him and pleads for help. The next thing, she's killed running from Brendan and into a dark drainage pipe. Brendan's smart but not one for school rules or social niceties. He starts asking around and gets beaten up. He is determined to find out why Emily was killed and do justice to those responsible. His only ally is The Brain, a super nerd and friend who knows a lot and sometimes can link unexpected dots. Soon we meet Laura, a high school femme fatale who can afford excellent manicures; Kara, a drama queen who seems to have no heart and a fondness for manipulation; Dode, a high school greaser with a shiny pompadour who dresses in black and says, gee, I loved her, too; and Tug, a blonde muscle boy who combines the build and the temperament of an enthusiastic steroid aficionado. Tug's rages should be avoided. Brendan doesn't. Lurking behind Brendan's search for the "why" of Emily's death is The Pin (Lukas Haas), a young man about 26 who wears a black cape and uses a cane. He admires the hobbit books. The Pin knows heroin pays a lot better than a community college Associate of Arts degree. The Pin has a basement office with cheap paneling and a mom who obliviously serves homemade cookies and apple juice to Brendan just after Tug, on The Pin's order, does a number on Brendan's face. Mom is a friendly sort without a clue to her son's activities. Her cookies look really good. I think they were raisin oatmeal.
When Brendan figures things out and forces a violent, nasty, clever showdown, a lot of bad guys pay the price, with a betrayal Brendan will never forgive. For Brendan? Well, Emily will always have a place in his heart.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages all this with complete assurance. He never winks at the audience. Those who saw him in The Lookout (2007) know just how fine and authentic an actor he is. As part of the generation now closing in on Pitt, DiCaprio and the like, Gordon-Levitt, if he isn't seduced by Hollywood's obsession with action heroes and the associated fame and cash, should find himself with a great reputation as an actor.
Brick is odd, clever, fast and coherent. Sure, it's something of a stunt. If you don't mind sometimes smiling along with your favorite movie genre, you'll probably like it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a bang-up job.
Brendon may wear glasses but he never carries a gat.

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February 23, 2011
wanted to come by and thank you for joining our community and for adding this review to Movie Hype! Thank you and welcome to the site! Please don't hesitate to message me if you have any questions. Catch you later... =)
More Brick (2005 movie) reviews
review by . February 08, 2012
Wonderful qualities that sink....just like a brick
Film noir has to be one of my favorite genres in the realm of story weaving. As a mixture of crime drama, mystery, German expressionism, thriller, melodrama and even a few drops of horror film noir has had a presence in cinema since the 1940s.  I do not proclaim myself a film noir expert per se, but I have seen plenty of films in this category to be a fair judge of what is good and what is not.  The best analogy I have for this film is being on a date with a woman who is beautiful and …
review by . April 30, 2010
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You think you've got it all figured out when you don't....
Film noir was one of cinemas most popular and most profitable genre or it uses to be back in the last stretch of the golden years in Hollywood (1940-1950). The last neo-noir the golden era pushed out was Orson Welles "Touch of Evil"(1958)   while during its release, it was well received but it sadly failed to reignite the flame of a fading genre. Noir seemed almost dead   until   an up and coming director named Roman Polanski took on the dangerous task of …
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
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A great modern film-noir. Joesph Gordon Levitt is Amazing. hard to think thats the kid for 3rd rock from the sun.
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
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Creative and beautiful! The language is like no other movie I have seen, and I just love it.
Quick Tip by . April 29, 2010
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A potent mix of teen drama and film noir thrown into the modern day setting of a crime filled High school underworld
review by . December 23, 2008
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Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan
In up and coming director Rian Johnson's film Brick, audiences are treated to a truly unique and memorable mystery film. Inspired by the literary work of the great detective novel writer Dashiell Hammett, who is best known as the creator of Sam Spade and The Thin Man, Rian Johnson set out to create a hip, contemporary noir film. While simultaneously following in the footsteps of great mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Johnson succeeds in revitalizing the detective genre …
review by . February 13, 2009
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Pros: True indie look and feel, easy to like characters by and large      Cons: The story gets lost more than once, ending is sudden and tacked on.      The Bottom Line: It'd hard to recommend or say avoid.  It is ok and worth considering, beyond that . . . if you like any actor, you will likely not be disappointed.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. I just glanced at the average …
review by . June 23, 2007
Thinking about high school, it's odd that no "high school noir" films existed prior to the last few years. High school is such a perfect setting for a film noir, and though it may seem ridiculous at first, there's many parallels between the world of a teenager and a character in a 1940s noir, be it the battle between the police and the shamuses and the battle between the administrators and the students or the shady meetings under bridges and the shady meetings in the parking lot after school. In …
review by . April 13, 2007
"Brick"    Enjoyable and Unique    Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride    While looking for something to watch for the weekend, I came upon "Brick", a very enjoyable film noir set in high school. It is something new and different--a bit over-the-top but very well done. This is not a kind of movie that allows you to sit back and relax as you watch it. It is very dark and sinister and keeps you on the edge of your seat once the action gets moving. …
review by . October 22, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
It's not easy being a teenager. Belonging or not belonging to a clique or gang can bring horrible expectations--ones that aren't easy to fulfill. Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an outsider, the way many outsiders are, but he is different. Brendan is devoted to his love, Emily Kostich, and will do anything to protect her. When she brushes off his love interest, she puts herself in harm's way. She is killed and Brendan finds her washed in a creek near an underground tunnel. From here he becomes …
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C. O. DeRiemer ()
Ranked #33
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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About this movie


High school collides with hard-boiled film noir in the twisty, cunningBrick. When he gets a mysterious message from his ex-girlfriend, a high school loner named Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt,Mysterious Skin) starts to dig into a crisscrossed web of drugs and duplicity, eventually getting entwined in the criminal doings of a teenage crime lord known as the Pin (Lukas Haas), his thuggish henchman Tugger (Noah Fleiss,Joe the King), and a mysterious girl named Laura (Nora Zehetner,Fifty Pills).Brickhas not only the seductive, labyrinthine plot of a crime thriller by Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) or Raymond Chandler (Farewell, My Lovely) but also a dense high-school version of hard-boiled lingo that's both comic and poetic. The movie unfolds with headlong momentum as Brendan manipulates, fights, and staggers his way through layers of high-school society. Gordon-Levitt is excellent; between this and the equally compellingMysterious Skin, he's left his3rd Rock from the Sundays behind. Also featuring Meagan Good (Waist Deep) and Richard Roundtree (Shaft).--Bret Fetzer
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Director: Rian Johnson
Genre: Drama
Release Date: March 31, 2006
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: August 8, 2006
Runtime: 1hr 57min
Studio: Universal Studios, Focus Features, Rogue Pictures
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