Plot: What’s it about?
I’d heard a lot of talk about “Brick” though I really had no concept of what the movie was about until I popped it into the DVD player. I immediately recognized Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but couldn’t quite place the face. Then it struck me “it’s that kid from ‘Third Rock from the Sun’”! I hadn’t seen or heard much from Lukas Haas in about a decade or so, and it was a nice change of pace to see him on screen again. Haas is a great actor, but he’s one of those child stars from the 80’s and 90’s that you really don’t hear from much anymore (and he’s not even 30 years old)! The thing that really struck me about “Brick” the most is that it’s essentially a modern day film-noir. The locale is different of course; it’s a California High School instead of inner-city Chicago or New York. But the characters are very defined, each has their particular role and they play it to a tee. Take Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) for example, he’s the protagonist and enlists the help of “The Brain” (Matt O’Leary). You’ve got the tough guy in Tugg, the vixen in Laura and the man behind it all, the Pin. In today’s techno-thriller world, will a dialogue-driven film noir work? Yes.
The story begins as Brendan (Levitt) has received a mysterious message from his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emile de Ravin). She asks that he meet her at a designated place and time, but fails to show. A few days later she turns up dead in a storm drain and Brendan’s feelings for her still run deep. Brendan’s an outsider and somewhat of a loner, but very intelligent. He enlists the help of his best friend “The Brain” to do some digging into the murder and sets out on a journey to find and avenge Emily’s death. Along the way he keeps the Vice-Principal (Richard Roundtree) informed with minimal information and meets a bevy of characters along the way. There’s the muscle, Tugger (Noah Fleiss) who consistently beats Brendan to a pulp. Brendan’s real plan, though, is to infiltrate the inner-circle of the drug ring run by The Pin (Lukas Haas). By earning The Pin’s trust, he can find out what happened to Emily and put the pieces of the puzzle together. The question is: will it work?
“Brick” really took me by surprise as it plays very cautiously at first and then accelerates into a full-fledged thriller. The cast is very young with only a few names standing out as the credits rolled, but don’t let that fool you – they’re good. The dialogue is very snappy as well, edited very tight and it gives you a sense that you’re really listening in on something that you’re not supposed to be. The movie was written and directed by Rian Johnson. Johnson, a product of USC’s film school obviously has talent as a writer and director and I’m anxiously awaiting more from him. “Brick” doesn’t have the sort of non-stop action that we’ve all been accustomed to. It doesn’t shove the story line down our throats like so many other movies out there, but we’re along for the ride and it makes the experience that much more. Somber and a bit depressing, “Brick” excels where other movies fail.
Video: How does it look?
To say that “Brick” is a low budget movie is somewhat of an understatement and low budget movies usually don’t have the finances to have a glossy high production value. As a result “Brick” is a bit on the grainy side, but the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer isn’t all bad. There are several shots in the movie that have a lot of grain to them, I’m sure it’s purposefully done but there are an equal number of scenes that look crystal clear. The transfer is a bit inconsistent, but when you consider the budget of the film it doesn’t look half bad.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack isn’t really used to the extent that other movies use it, but then again this is a dialogue-driven movie if there ever was one. Just like the film-noir movies of the 30’s and 40’s, there’s little background noise and though the surrounds kick in at a few times, they’re mostly silent. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout. This might have been a mono track, but there is a feeling and sense that it has more to offer. Nothing too much to complain about here, it delivers plain and simple.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The supplements aren’t too robust, but we do get a pretty talkative commentary track with most of the cast involved at some point. It offers some insight into the shoot and the backstory to a few of the characters. It’s a good, solid track though I think there might be one too many cooks in the kitchen! There are about 20 minutes of deleted scenes and some that were extended, but edited down because of timing and pacing. Lastly there’s a featurette entitled “The Inside Track: Casting the Roles” showing some screen tests and how the different actors were put into their respective roles in the final film. A great movie and just enough supplements to warrant a purchase, “Brick” is something to be seen.