Movie Review by Dr Kuma
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss
Director: Rian Johnson
Now and again we are treated to something special. Sometimes it’s a great action flick that takes you on a rollercoaster ride or sometimes a great horror that makes you jump and squirm, and now and again a great film includes all these as well as a good laugh and a cry. Occasionally a film is so outstanding that you can’t quite put a finger on just a couple of scenes as some films are so full of great scenes and bristling dialogue that they are like great chapters in a page turner you just can’t put down. If a book or film keeps you riveted, then it’s going to stay with you and you’ll recommend it to others. BRICK is one of these films and I expect it still to feature in my end of year ‘best of’s…’ even though we’re not even halfway through the year. The reason for this is that the film itself has a time slip quality to it. BRICK is essentially a modern day film noir but whereas the great 40’s noirs use shadows and alleyways to great effect, so this film uses sunlight and wide open spaces. Where the classics were crisp black and white, this film has the look of an old photo that’s been left in the sunlight too long, a washed out pastel that adds to the whole faded and forgotten feel of the film.
There have been some great modern noirs – CHINATOWN, BODY HEAT and the massively underrated remake of BREATHLESS – but this film is the best for some time and is noir to its core unlike SIN CITY, which tried hard but seemed to be a comic book homage rather than a real noir.
The acting by all involved is superb and if you’re interested to see how cute kids can grow up to be the anti version of their younger selves then look no further than Lukas Haas, the cute kid from WITNESS now terrific as a young gangland boss who’s older than his years in look and spirit. A living MALTESE FALCON.
The plot, which twists and turns like a rattlesnake, is set in a modern-day southern California neighbourhood and high school. There, student Brendan Frye’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) leads a quiet life until the day that his ex-girlfriend calls him in terror to say that she is in trouble. Still having deep feelings for her he reinvents himself as a sort of teen geek Sam Spade character, a hard edged character who does not suffer fools gladly. He tracks down Emily (Emilie de Ravin of LOST) who’s fallen in with the wrong crowd. Shortly after finding her she disappears again and he fears the worst. His investigations lead him, literally, into the dark underbelly of his local town which is populated by corrupted teenagers who souls are as black as their hair dye. In Brendan’s words, he wants to “Shake the tree and see what falls out”. This he does but to his shock, his own world is one of the things that he has to avoid crushing him as it too comes crashing to the ground with all the hidden rotten fruit his shake down uncovers. Whereas BUGSY MALONE was a gangster film played by kids for kids, this is a gangster film played by teens (we have the classic femme fatale, manipulated henchmen and a powerful crime boss) for adults. It is so amazingly constructed that the age of the protagonists, at first a tad unbelievable as the faces contradict the world weary dialogue, is used as a perfect metaphor where the faces become as bruised and as bloody as the souls within and adds to the whole unearthly feel of the piece.
BRICK, the debut feature of Rian Johnson, won the Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision, but it’s the clarity of the vision behind the tear filled eyes of its protagonist – striving not for the light at the end of the tunnel but just an explanation – that grips you by your collar and drags you along through the dirt in the trunk of a beat up car that stands out. The conclusion, when it arrives in a whisper, hits you like the sunlight at opening of said car boot, blinding you at its final destination and denouement and you emerge stiff, shaken and a little disorientated. The ending has been a great debate amongst fans and critics, but I loved it. This will appeal to those people who loved MULHOLLAND DRIVE and I’m sure in years to come this film will play with that film or CHINATOWN at your local rep on a Sunday neo-noir double bill.
Dr Kuma’s verdict: Film noir is as American as The Western, but as with the noirs of the 40’s and 50’s it is in Europe where this film will gain its reputation and over time will be seen as a classic of the genre.