By Shawn McKenzie 04/09/2006
Brick has to be one of the most anticipated movies coming out this year. Ironically, when people end up actually seeing it, they will be bitterly disappointed.
In the beginning of the movie, we meet Southern California high school student Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an intelligent bespectacled kid who has just found his ex-girlfriend Emily Kostach (Emilie de Ravin) dead in a storm drain. We then flash back to two days previous, when Brendan has received a note in his locker from Emily, who dumped him two months ago and fell in with a bad crowd. It says for him to call her on the phone on a specific day and time. When he calls her on a pay phone, she rambles on in a panic about a “bad brick,” “tug,” “Poor Frisco,” and “pin.” He still loves her, so he sets out to find her. He consults with fellow brainiac student The Brain (Matt O’Leary) to figure out the meaning behind the obscure clues. The Brain asks her whom she has been eating with, i.e. whom she has been hanging out with, and he comes up with a list of possible suspects. The list of suspects includes Emily’s current dope head boyfriend Dode (Noah Segan), theater girl Kara (Meagan Good), and jock Brad Bramish (Brian J. White.) While he is investigating the disappearance, he has to keep Assistant Vice Principal Gary Trueman (Richard Roundtree) involved in order to explain his absence from class…but not too involved. Brendan ends up at a party hosted by Brad’s rich girlfriend Laura Dannon (Nora Zehetner) and gets in a fight with a thug named Tugger (Noah Fleiss), who is the muscle for a drug kingpin known as The Pin (Lukas Haas.) He meets with The Pin, who is a 26-year-old that carries a duck-headed cane and still lives with his mom (Reedy Gibbs), where he conducts his business out of their basement. Brendan forms an uncomfortable alliance with The Pin in order to find out what happened to Emily.
I have to admit that I first saw this movie months ago (I think it was last December if I remember correctly.) I remember hating the movie, but I kept hearing about it from other critics and people who saw the preview screenings. Most of them said the same thing…the critics loved it, and the regular people hated it.
Why do I think that regular moviegoers won’t enjoy the movie? It’s because it is done in the old film noir style of the 1940’s. The mystery comes from an old Dashiell Hammett detective novel, the dialogue is straight out of 1941’s The Maltese Falcon, and the visual style is similar to 1974’s Chinatown. The problem with film noir is that they tend to have a complicated plot filled with many characters who all speak quickly as if they are in an episode of NBC’s “The West Wing,” leading the viewer confused as to what is going on. I know that happened to me while I watched the film, and when I can’t understand what is going on, I tend to not enjoy the viewing experience. It’s too bad because Gordon-Levitt did a decent job playing the Bogey role, and Zehetner did a credible job in the Mary Astor role.
Brick is writer/director Rian Johnson’s first movie, and it won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. It was also nominated at the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards for the John Cassavetes Award (which is the best film production with a budget under $500,000.) While it was a good idea to set a film noir mystery in a high school, I have a feeling that its target audience won’t get it.
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