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flick pick | Brick 2005
Directed + written by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss, Matt O’Leary, Emilie de Ravin
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama, mystery
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:  hip, witty
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5 

Plot synopsis Brendan lurks outside the fringes of high school life, observing coolly, imagining he goes unnoticed. He likes it that way; he doesn’t have a whole lot of use for his peers. But when his ex-girlfriend Emily disappears, then calls him out-of-the-blue with a teary plea for help with some big mess she’s landed in, Brendan finds himself drawn into things. He can’t help himself; Emily still gets to him, despite the fact she’s not only broken his heart, but made an active effort to worm her way into the cool crowd Brendan most disdains. On the phone now, she’s fuzzy about the details of her dilemma, drops incoherent references to “tug” and a “brick” and the “pin”; the only thing that comes through clearly is that she’s in a panic. When their conversation is cut short with a scream followed by a dead line, Brendan wastes no time in setting out to find her. The next day, she meets him in person to tell him she’s changed her mind, doesn’t need or want his help, suggests he scram. But by this point, Brendan’s razor-sharp mind already has gears a-whirring. With the occasional help of another high school loner named The Brain, he launches into an investigation that takes him deep into the bowels of his suburban SoCal high school’s seedy underworld. Soon he’s grilling a smoky-seductive drama queen to spill her secrets, deflecting the inquisitions of the high school vice principal, trading bloody blows with local thugs, and arranging strategic sit-downs with the town’s oh-so-aged drug kingpin (“He’s supposed to be old. Like 26.”). Meanwhile, mysterious doe-eyed rich-girl Laura keeps turning up in his path, offering to help Brendan get the answers he’s looking for. She’s sexy; she’s intriguing; she’s not to be trusted. But for the time being, it seems, Brendan needs her, as he works his way towards uncovering the truth about what’s happened to Emily.

Review There was a time when someone might have uttered the words “high school film noir” to describe a movie and my reaction would have been a lukewarm, Eh. This, of course, would have been before I feel madly in love with Veronica Mars, a TV show now in its third season that cleverly co-opts the standard noir elements -- murder, mystery, a hardboiled detective, sexy-dodgy co-conspirators -- and centers them in a suburban SoCal high school. So I’m glad Brick came out post-VM; a few years back, I may well have passed this one over on the video store shelves. This would have been a shame, because Brick, it turns out, pulls off a rather amazing feat: it’s both exactly what that pithy four-word descriptor “high school film noir” would imply, and totally different from anything you’re likely to have seen before. Brick not only takes the familiar plot devices and standard characters of the genre and successfully transposes them to high school life, it actually gets its teenage good guys and bad guys and femme fatales to speak in the rat-a-tat rhythm and snappy lingo of noir’s 30s and 40s heyday. It’s very weird and totally stylized; it’s also unexpectedly, irresistibly delightful to hear such witty lines dropped so nonchalantly from the mouths of modern day kids. Add in a coolly charismatic performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan -- yes, that kid from Third Rock from the Sun sure has come a long way -- a campy-creepy and very amusing Lukas Haas as the local drug lord, plus fabulously moody atmosphere galore, and you have one of the most original debuts from a young writer-director that I’ve seen in good long while.—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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