As I mentioned at the beginning of September, I’ve had a major hard-on in anticipation of the release of Looper. Today, I can finally have my cinematic urges gratified. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt working together under the direction of Rian Johnson should be awesome. The question is, will it be as awesome as Johnson and JGL’s first endeavor, Brick?
Panicked, high school student Emily (Emilie de Ravin) calls her loner ex-beau, Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and before he can glean who, or what, has Emily so terrified, she hangs up. After finding her dead body, Brendan with the help of his friend the Brain (Matt O’Leary), begins to shake down everyone from the school’s upper crust like Brad (Brian White) and Laura (Nora Zehetner) to the pie-pan grease like Dode (Noah Segan) to solve her murder. All Brendan’s kicking around puts him in the sights of the Pin (Lukas Haas), head of the local drug trade, and the Pin’s hotheaded muscle, Tugger (Noah Fleiss).
Brick is a crime thriller and the first full-length film from writer-director Rian Johnson. It is also a phenomenal piece of cinema. Don’t believe me? Check with Thaddeus who listed Brick among his 10 Best Indies of the Last 25 Years. I could easily fill in my opinion with the few paragraphs he posted, but I will try and spin a few threads of my own.
The most noticeably distinctive feature of Brick is the characters’ way of speaking. Johnson’s slickly crafted dialect is a bit much to take in at first, but as you settle into the story and decipher it, it should only improve your opinion. To give you an example, one of my favorite lines is when Brendan responds to Assistant V.P. Trueman’s (Richard Roundtree) request with, “I gave you Jerr to see him eaten, not to see you fed.” Such a simple, yet elegant piece of dialogue that provides so much detail into the history between these characters and their attitudes towards one another.
Just as slick as the dialogue is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose modern day gumshoe is calm and cool as he juggles all the investigations’ elements. Whether he’s roughing up Dode for answers, persuading the Pin of his worthiness, or berating the cold-blooded Kara (Meagan Good) for her secrecy, Brendan always has his specs on, checking all the angles.
Opposite Brendan is the Pin, who, were you to see him riding around in his lamp-lit Astro van, wearing all black and sporting his inverness cape, would seem laughable, but Haas’s serious demeanor and Johnson’s excellent use of atmosphere make him a proper villain.
Brick is brutally violent, seedy and dark as one would expect a murder mystery to be. The adult subject matter dominates, but the high school vibe is retained. Brendan is beaten and battered both on and off campus, but, unwavering, he plows forward in his quest for the truth.
Before I start giving away crucial plot points, let me stop. Brick is a rich film, dense with story, style and substance. Some may say it requires a second viewing to understand what’s being said, but I’d recommend seeing it time and again to appreciate all it has to offer.