Saturday, July 2, 2011

BRICK (2005) - A high school crime story

Director Rian Johnson's debut Brick was released to good acclaim in 2005 when it picked up a few prizes, good reviews and then dropped off the radar for many movie fans. I fortunately came across it while on a film noir kick after re-watching one of my favorites, L.A. Confidential. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt before he hit the jackpot with Inception, with a sharp script and a rich atmosphere drawing on inspiration from film noir mystery movies of the past, Brick was a very welcome surprise.

Brendan just doesn't know when to give up.
High school senior Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) receives a mysterious phone call from his estranged ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) pleading for help. The desperate, confusing call ends abruptly when Brendan is buzzed by a threatening, speeding muscle car. Brendan begins asking around for Emily at school and no one seems willing to help him. He slowly but surely begins to piece together tidbits of information gleamed from classmates and local dope fiends. With help from his friend and eccentric loner Brain (Matt O'Leary), Brendan investigates a drug ring which may have something to do with Emily's disappearance.

Drugs are bad for you.
A breakthrough leads a disheartened Brendan to Emily's dead body near a water tunnel. As he continues to dig deeper into her murder, he comes into contact with Pin, the local drug kingpin who runs a heroin operation in the city, and his various thugs. Brendan also stumbles into an uneasy relationship with the popular Laura, whose motivations are less than clear. Without giving any more of the plot away to avoid spoiling anything, Brendan will soon realize that he has put himself into a dangerous situation that is quickly threatening to overwhelm him. Drugs, violence, betrayal and deceit all intertwine to hinder Brendan's investigation.

Ally or femme fatale? In Brick, nothing is what it appears.
 This flick is proof that you don't need big names and a big budget to make a damn good movie. The strength of the movie is in the story, which unravels at a leisurely pace while keeping you interested and building tension throughout. Rian Johnson gets the best out of his limited cast, especially with Joseph Gordon-Levitt who nails it as the stubborn, fast talking and resourceful Brendan. Brendan is a memorable character, as is Pin, whose scenes give the movie some welcome comic relief at times (the scenes in his kitchen and basement are hilarious) and yet still manages to seem convincing as a cold, calculating drug lord.

Running a drug empire from Mama's kitchen - like a boss.
The score is subdued but effective, and the lighting and atmosphere is jut gorgeous and gives the movie a gritty vibe that makes it all the more enjoyable. If you're in the mood for a good detective story and can look past some of its quirks, especially some of the obscure slang, Brick hits the spot. It can drag a bit at times and if the deliberate pacing annoys you, it might not be your cup of tea, but it is otherwise an enthralling, exciting crime yarn with some memorable scenes.

TL;DR - Slick crime story meets film noir meets suburbia - 7.5/10


  1. Great film! Also nobody really swears throughout the whole film. Also I love the logo for your blog.

  2. pretty solid film - I like JGL in almost anything he's in

  3. Heard good things about this, good review.

  4. I would give it a higher rating, enjoyed it greatly for bringing the old noir style to a current setting.

  5. Nice post, thanks guy!
    Have a nice day.

  6. I remember the trailer for this but never saw it. Kudos for loving LA Confidential. One of my favorite films hands downs!

  7. @ Shaw: I would've rated it a bit higher if it was a bit longer. I felt the ending was a bit too quick and neat.

    Thanks for the comments guys!

  8. I'll check this out on Netflix. Good job.

  9. I'll check this out on Netflix. Good job.