If Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler ran a high school, this would be it.
I’m a sucker for a good film noir and BRICK was like crack-candy to me. All the vital elements are here: you’ve got an engaging detective mystery at the core, great hyper-stylized cinematography, and a handful of memorable and well-defined characters. There’s even the trademark “too cool for school” spitfire dialogue, chockfull of the requisite slang and metaphors. After a few minutes of getting used to, the outlandish speech and rhythms actually sound pretty natural and fun coming from teenage mouths.
However, the reason BRICK ultimately worked for me, even in its unlikely setting, is because it takes itself seriously. There’s no self-referential jokes or hokey winks at the genre ala SCREAM; it’s just a straight, confident noir that happens to be set in a high school. (The final scene is something straight out of THE MALTESE FALCON.) In fact, the setting actually makes sense when you think about it; what ruthless place is riper for seedy behavior and double crossing than high school? (Especially in this day and age…)
BRICK also sports a perfect jazzy score and some truly creative editing. And I’d be remiss to not give props to the relatively unknown cast, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Who’d have thought the kid from ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD would grow up to kick ass and take names? I was also mucho impressed by Nora Zehetner’s femme fatale Nora—played with just the right amount of beauty, mystery and allure. And, c’mon, how can you not want to go to a school where Richard Roundtree is the principal?
Commentary with director Rian Johnson and “Guests”: Johnson tries something different and runs the commentary talk show style, bringing in various guests to speak about their part in making the film, including actors (Noah Segan and Nora Zehetner), producers and production and costume designers. It’s a pretty clever way of getting different opinions and input, without forcing the audience to listen to an entire two hour track by a costume designer, for example.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (22:33): This is actually a hybrid of eight cut scenes and some behind the scenes footage and photos. You get some extra dialogue, alternate versions, as well as an admittedly awful fantasy sequence. Each one comes with an introduction by Johnson
The Inside Track: Casting the Roles of Laura and Dode (3:14): A few minutes of audition footage of Zehetner and Noah Segan.
And once again, darn you Rian Johnson for a job well done.