Studio/Distributor: Focus Features
Cast: Joseph Gordon, Nora Zehetner, Noah Fleiss, Matt O’Leary, Noah Segan, Meagan Good, Emilie de Ravin, Brian J. White, Richard Roundtree, Lukas Haas
Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Synopsis: Brendan Fyre is a high school loner who finds out that his ex-girlfriend has disappeared. With a round of suspects connected to her disappearance and a crime lord known as the Pin somewhat behind the mystery, Brendan must look through a sea of high school cliques and endure several twists and turns in order to find out what happened to the one he considered to be his true love in this film noir set in high school.
The Bottom Line: There have been a lot of films where old genre conventions are blended with the genre conventions of modern-day film. However, “Brick” is one of those films that blends the conventions of 1940s film noir with the conventions of the modern high school drama effortlessly. You go into this film thinking how it would be possible to understand these blended elements, and the answer is to look back at the films made at Warner Bros., Columbia Pictures, Universal Studios & RKO Pictures (just to name a few) in the 1940s and early 1950s as well as the high school films of the 80s, 90s & early 00s (particularly dramas). These films had a snappy, punchy screenplay that helped move the action along with fast energy and obviously, Rian Johnson must’ve studied up prior to making “Brick” because the actions and the characters in this film act pretty much like normal modern-day characters in a modern-day high school drama but the dialogue is anything but modern-day because almost all the dialogue and music is all film noir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan is the quintessential film noir anti-hero and the quintessential high school outcast, someone who’s rougher, tougher and more courageous than he looks, not to mention being capable of showing raw emotion, especially during one scene where he has a broken-up reaction to a devastating secret about Em. The real standouts in the film, however, are Nora Zehetner as Laura and Noah Segan as Dode. Segan is able to play the erratic druggie who introduced Em to the title drug (more about that in a moment) and we, the viewers, are able to feel sympathy for him after learning about Em’s secret and how much it made him feel. Zehetner is someone who knows how to play the femme fatale with subtlety and realism without the cliche characteristics usually seen in most noir thrillers. She has ending up feeling for Laura and the situation she has put herself in. As for the title “Brick”, it’s a special kind of drug that only the youth of Southern California’s picturesque suburbs know about and the drug that Em got hooked on, before her disappearance, making it the “McGuffin” of the entire story and the man behind it all is The Pin, played with quiet menace by Lukas Haas. At the start of it, The Pin is portrayed as a Sidney Greenstreet-type out of “The Maltese Falcon” but as the film reaches its startling climax, he becomes more of a fallen king who’s lost control of his kingdom to jealousy and bloodshed. “Brick” is as gripping and taut as any film noir of yesteryear and it’s just as entertaining and witty as any high school movie of any generation (80s, 90s, today), quite possibly it may be the best mystery-thriller since either “The Maltese Falcon” or “This Gun for Hire”.