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Review: Brick

03.31.2006

Our L.A. man, Thomas Leupp, recently had the chance to see BRICK and here's his review of the indie flick, opening today:

Rating: 8/10

Plot:

Film noir gets a heavy dose of teen angst in this hard-boiled detective story set in a modern-day Southern California high school. A bright, brooding loner investigates the disappearance of his troubled ex-girlfriend and soon finds himself immersed in a dangerous underworld of drugs, dames and duplicity.

Critique:

Writer/director Rian Johnson makes an impressive debut in this ambitious homage to Dashiell Hammett and the hard-boiled genre he helped make famous. At first the thought of grafting film noir onto a modern-day high school seems odd, even laughable, but Johnson somehow makes it work. The result is a highly entertaining mystery/thriller filled with fine performances from a cast made up mostly of Hollywood up-and-comers.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt shines in the Humphrey Bogart role as Brendan, a teenage outsider still pining for his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) months after their breakup. When Emily turns up dead and foul play is suspected, Brendan takes it upon himself to track down the folks responsible. He enlists the help of The Brain (Matt O’Leary), whose crafty intel puts Brendan in contact with all sorts of shady characters, including teenage drug kingpin The Pin (Lukas Haas), his hired muscle Tug (Noah Fleiss) and femme fatal Laura (Nora Zehetner). Turns out that Emily took a few laps around the block after her breakup with Brendan and got herself in a nasty predicament. In order to find the answers, Brendan must successfully infiltrate this world while keeping the Assistant Vice Principal (Richard Roundtree) at arm’s length.

Gordon-Levitt’s come a long way since 3rd Rock from the Sun and 10 Things I Hate About You (though, interestingly enough, he’s still playing guys in high school); Haas is great as an affected drug dealer who works out of his mom’s basement and Zehetner is achingly hot as a mysterious dame with dubious loyalties. My favorite performance, however, comes from Noah Fleiss. He’s the perfect short-tempered high school meathead, complete with the tricked-out muscle car and the Eminem wardrobe.

Ironically, it’s Johnson’s strict adherence to old-school film noir that provides the film with its only major flaws. At several points throughout the story, the distinctly noir-ish dialogue, littered with terms like “yeg” and “heel,” becomes a needless distraction. Entire exchanges are practically incomprehensible. Were it not for the glossary provided with the press notes, I might have been hopelessly lost. Nonetheless, an astute observer can pretty much figure out what’s going on, plot-wise, and the story is enough to keep the viewer interested despite the occasionally awkward dialogue.

Kudos to Rian Johnson for staying true to his vision. He could have easily thrown in a few Ashton Kutchers and Lindsay Lohans, put Maroon 5 on the soundtrack and cashed in. Thankfully, he opted to stay indie and treat audiences to something new and refreshing.

Source: JoBlo.com

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