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  Brick Satisfaction Brought It Back
Year: 2005
Director: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss, Matt O'Leary, Emilie de Ravin, Noah Seagan, Richard Roundtree, Meagan Good, Brian J. White, Jonathan Cauff, Reedy Gibbs, Lucas Babin, Tracy Wilcoxen, Ari Welkom, Cody Lightning
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sits at the mouth of a drainage tunnel, silently contemplating the dead body lying in the water before him. She used to be his girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) until recently, but she fell in with a bad crowd and despite Brendan's efforts to save her, has been murdered. Two days earlier in school, he had received a short note in his locker telling him to go to a certain telephone booth at a particular time, and he dutifully did so, only to hear a message from a tearful Emily that she was in trouble - immediately Brendan wanted to help, but her voice was cut off by the roar of a car engine approaching, a black sports car that someone flicked a still-smoking cigarette out of. The cigarette had a distinctive blue arrow on it, just one of many clues Brendan would have to add up as he turned detective...

And a detective story this is, as writer and director Rian Johnson, the editor on fellow 2000s cult movie May, was paying his respects to the film noir genre of American cinema of the forties and early fifties. So our hero, although a high school student, is really a gumshoe in the mould of Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, basically the Humphrey Bogart role, attempting to find out the killer's identity amongst his peers, who also conform to various stock characters of the genre. Yes, there's the thug henchman, the local Mr Big, and the femme fatale of course, but there is somebody missing from the otherwise familiar set up. There are no cops to be seen anywhere, in fact the closest we get is hearing sirens near the end, and the only authority figure we see is the school Vice Principal played by Richard Roundtree, filmed to look as if he's ten feet tall.

This means the true authority figure, the person everyone has to answer to, is Brendan. He's a crusader for truth in a plot that thickens so much that you're never entirely sure what exactly is going on or who has been doing what to whom, and at the finale, where the traditional sleuth explaining the twists scene takes place, may not thoroughly clear everything up for you. Before all that, however, Brendan has to secure a few leads, and he does this with the help of his sidekick, a bespectacled Rubik's Cube-manipulating boy in the know named The Brain (Matt O'Leary). Interestingly, Brendan sports glasses as well, which fits his personality as one having to look extra hard for the facts.

That said, he does take his glasses off for a good, old-fashioned fight, and Brendan has a tendency to get into scrapes which leave bruises and cuts on his increasingly weary features. He tracks down the killer by piecing together scraps of information, some offered to him anonymously, others he uncovers himself, which lead him to a costume party, or to that drain, while we see in flashbacks his unhappy relationship with Emily, a love that was not as strong for her as it was for him. The whole thing is filmed with dialogue that is just as obscure as its central conundrum, but what Brick lacks is wit as there's not much of a sense of humour here, with the odd nod to cynical amusement only adding up to, say, the Mr Big (Lukas Haas) still living with his doting mother or having a table lamp in the back of his operations van for no good reason. The atmosphere can best be summed up as dreamlike, although oddly rarely nightmarish, and as such may well leave you coldly impressed as this is a hard film to truly adore, no matter how clever it is. Music by Nathan Johnson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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