Brick – Review (Spoiler Free)

BrickRaymond Chandler goes to high school – it’s unique but slightly emotionless.


Rian Johnson (Looper) here infuses a story of a high school student  investigating his ex-girlfriend’s murder with the language and attitude of the hardboiled noir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his co-stars continuously interrogate and bounce off one another with stylised lines such as ‘I’ve got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you’, and they always play it straight. It’s an odd setup I’ll grant you, but if you stick with it you’ll find that it actually works rather well.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very good here; playing the role of determined, cool detective just the right side of subdued. He knows how to handle the noir caricature, never once slipping into being too emotionally withdrawn and always having a certain charm and charisma attached to him. As to his costars they all do a fine, if not particularly noteworthy job in their respective roles. Thankfully they too know their subject and play it dead straight. You have to be ready to embrace the initially anachronistic dialogue and characters, but if you do you will find a surprisingly alive and intelligent little film lurking here.
Brick JGLMy biggest issue with this one is the cool indie style in which the film is drenched. As much as it is a huge part of the film’s identity and I am alright with that, it does detract from certain moments which should be more emotionally rich. The film wants to play its story cool and pretty detached due to its noir sensibilities, but a story of a young teenager investigating his ex-girfriend’s murder naturally should have some degree of emotional undercurrent – and that is sadly missing here.

Still, this is one of those rare films which has a certain amount of hype about it being original, stylish and intelligent and it does mostly pull through. It’s a great early example of Levitt’s and Johnson’s talents, in fact it is considerably better than Looper, and although it is a little too stylised for my personal taste, this is bound to appeal to noir and indie film fans. It’s no must see, but it is a curiosity piece which actually lives up to its hype.

Summary:

What is the film’s greatest strength? Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s excellent performance.

Its greatest weakness? The lack of emotion on display.

Would I see it again? Yes, although I won’t be rushing back.

Knock out your thoughts in the comment box below!

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20 comments

  1. Good review Rumsey. It’s so stylized, but it works so well for the whole movie. In other words, high school is hell, and this movie portrays that oh so perfectly in the strangest way possible.

    1. Thanks!
      Yeah it is such an interesting and unusual take on high school and yet it works very well. The style very nearly became too much for me, but I just about was alright with it. As I say in the review, it was only the potential emotional moments when I thought it took away from the film.

  2. I absolutely love this movie and it is easily one of my top ten favorites (and is definitely the newest movie on that list). Admittedly, film noir is my favorite genre and part of why I liked this movie is the way it adapts the genre and makes a fresh new movie with old genre sensibilities. Situating the film in the context of high school made the film interesting to me as a noir. It is an interesting modern adaptation in that it moves the old lessons of noir to a now-familiar movie landscape (high school), with drugs at the center of the drama instead of the more traditional noir conflicts. I could go on but I am actually in the process of writing a review about this film so I won’t ramble on and on here.

    Great review! I agree that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is amazing here and that this is a better film than Looper (which I still loved. Levitt and Johnson have me hooked).

    1. I can completely understand why you love it so much. It’s an intelligent film, and I myself am very fond of films which play with and challenge genre expectations.
      Your points sound interesting so I absolutely aim to head on over and check out your review.

      Thank you! I loved the first part of Looper, but felt that it betrayed itself and became too generic and unintelligent if I’m honest. There were parts of Looper which I was very very keen on; the whole world building at the start, and the initially seemingly neat concept of people being sent back in order to be killed.

      1. I absolutely agree that one of the strongest parts of Looper is its initial world-building where it lays out the vast majority of the interesting ideas in the film. It gets away from itself a little bit as it moves along. With Brick I know there are problems but it so perfectly hits all of my favorite qualities in movies that I can not help but love it without question. I know there are problems but I can’t help myself.

        1. Fair enough, I know that feeling well! And it’s not as if Brick is deeply flawed or anything; it’s a solid, interesting and inventive take on a well-trodden genre and has a great lead performance!

  3. Wise words Mr Rumsey.

    I liked Brick for what it’s worth. The acting, with the exception of Levitt, is a bit wooden though, in my opinion, and I worry that it results in people treating this film as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek exercise, when I don’t think it is at all. Achingly stylish though, which is always a good thing!

    1. Thanks!

      There were perhaps a couple of moments where I would definitely agree with you, but on the whole I think that the other actors do a decent job. There certainly is that worry, but I think Levitt solely manages to keep the film on track as not being tongue-in-cheek. The depth to his performance grounds it I think.

  4. Nice review mate. This is one of those films that I keep meaning to see, but never get around to it. Thanks for another reminder!

    1. Cheers, and no problem! I hope you do check it out, it’s worth a look.

  5. Nice review, I’m interested to see this as I do like a good noir.

    1. Cheers Vinnieh, well in that case I would thoroughly recommend this one. It’s an unusual and inspired take on the genre.

      1. Will add it to my watchlist now.

        1. Excellent!

  6. I was blown away when I first saw this movie. It isn’t perfect, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere and JGL’s performance. Great review.

    1. Hey thank you, long time no see! How are you?
      Yeah it has flaws but regardless it’s a very interesting one to check out and Levitt is really great here.

      1. I’m great. It sure has been a while.

        Levitt is definitely one of my more favorite actors in recent years.

        1. Good to hear, I myself haven’t been around too regularly for a while.

          Yeah he is pretty great!

  7. Just wanted to say thanks for the support, my blog recently celebrated its 2 year anniversary. You should check out the post.

    1. Ah congrats! No problem, I’ll head on over!

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