Reviewed by: Michael Karounos
|Featuring:||Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Meagan Good, Richard Roundtree, Lukas Haas, Nora Zehetner, Noah Segan, Noah Fleiss, Emilie de Ravin|
|Producer:||Ram Bergman, Mark G. Mathis|
“A detective story”
“Brick” is a daring experiment in filmmaking that targets a teenage demographic, but, similar to “L.A. Confidential” and “Pulp Fiction,” is photographed as a film noir. Like those films, and the whole range of earlier film noirs like “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Big Sleep,” and “Murder, My Sweet,” the world of “Brick” is an immoral one in which the protagonist tries to act as an agent of morality.
The movie has the usual character types: the private eye, Brendan (played outstandingly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt); the femme fatale, Laura, (Nora Zehetner); the ill-fated lover, Emily, (Emilie de Ravin of Lost); and a convincing villain with a possible mother complex called “The Pin” (played by Lukas Haas).
“Brick” opens with Emily (Brendan’s former girlfriend) both missing and in trouble. As Brendan searches for her, things, as they say, get complicated. A series of unfortunate events draw Brendan deeper into a sub-culture of drugs and violence. In true noir fashion, Brendan gets tangled with druggies, the local toughs, and the requisite predatory female. The convoluted trail leads Brendan through a series of experiences which challenge his integrity and resolve. His loyalty to Emily puts him in danger which defines his existence as a moral person. He could quit trying to solve the mystery of her disappearance and remain in one piece, or he could remain true to their past love and get beaten to a pulp. To Brendan’s credit, he chooses the latter.
The entire movie is an exercise in Brendan doing the right thing, always to his own detriment. He owes nothing to Emily—she left him; she chose to do drugs; she attached herself to a bad crowd, yet Brendan persists in trying to track her down.
During the course of the movie, even as things heat up, the emotions of the characters remain understated, cool, noirish. It is this quality that distinguishes “Brick” as a teenage film from teenage films that aren’t “Brick;” the ultimate attraction of the movie is that it portrays teenagers as adults. This is rare in teen movies today which typically portray teen emotions as bordering on hysteria when compared to the troubled maturity of teenagers in classics like “Rebel without a Cause,” “Splendor in the Grass,” or “West Side Story.” Contemporary films rely on crass sexual jokes, ridiculous characters, and sex to carry the story. “Brick” is brave enough to entertain through the development of its characters.
“Brick” has neither sexual situations nor stupid jokes, but instead shows teenagers (excepting the druggies) as serious individuals who make serious moral choices, both good and bad. What the movie doesn’t do is infantilize teens. It treats the milieu of high school as seriously as the old film noirs treated the cityscape of an urban environment. In doing so, it exacts higher expectations from the audience as well as from the actors.
Like those older movies, the action revolves around the development of character and not around car chases, special effects, or nude scenes. The writing is good, the acting is good, and the emotional payoff is gratifying. The ultimate end of a tragedy, Aristotle noted, is catharsis: a satisfying feeling one gets from seeing the world portrayed as a troubled place but with its moral order restored in the end. From now on it’s permissible to say that someone is “brick” when he or she is solid but not hard, passionate but not emotional, straight-up but not crude. Like “Brick.”
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor