Wednesday, May 10, 2006

BRICK - This film is so cool that Richard Roundtree is by far not the coolest thing about it

This review is brought to you by Tomiwa:

There are two kinds of people who will enjoy Brick: film noir fans who don't mind seeing the form explored in a new and unexpected manner, and 13 year old kids who might not know the form but will love the characters, the language and ultimately the very idea of film noir itself. Lucky for me, I'm fit right into both of these categories (old film noir fan and a 13 year old boy at heart). BRICK doesn't do anything too original to the basic workings of film noir, but it is a very fun take on the genre. All the stock characters are there, the twists (few of which a really clever viewer will find unexpected), the feel, even despite the sunny California setting, the claustrophobia.

The main problem with Brick is settling into the world it creates. There is a reason noir movies are made with grizzled, worn out men and set in dark alleys and bars. It gives instant credibility to the characters and the metaphoric darkness of their world. In a sunny California high school, one cannot help but wonder why our would be Bogey is so hard, what it is that drives him, how his instincts got honed or his worldview is so dark. One also has to wonder where the rest of the world as we know it is in relation to this place of vice and sin. The movie does a fine job answering some of these, revealing interesting details and back story that fill out the characters, but it never suceeds in merging the world it's created with the one we know. Hence, you have a movie that's internally coherent and completely engrossing if you just surrender to it's logic, but absolutely inane if you're the kind that can't let go of reality.

The acting is superb. Gordon-Levitt's take on the hard boiled detective steals liberally from Bogart (physical mannerisms and all) but opens it up wonderfully in some fresh ways. Everyone else is pretty great as well, except for the Pin, whose character is quite overdrawn and further let down by the acting. It's also a really beautiful movie in parts, with some clever cinematography and really fun shots. And the language... The language is nothing short of brilliant, the kind of stuff that makes you want to watch a movie over and over again. It adds to the oddity of the universe constructed, but it's just so much fun to hear and repeat. So I guess, I kinda recommend this movie. It's about the most fun I've had in a theatre this year.

And a few words from Bina007:
BRICK is very very odd film. Take a normal high school in modern-day California. Now, let’s give it a sort of antiquated film-noir feel. We’ll have people run to phone booths on abandoned street-corners or in empty car-lots rather than use cellphones. We’ll have the students speak in a stream of stylish one-liners full of almost impenetrable slang. We’ll have them hang out with drug-pushers and murdering thugs too. And then, we’ll populate this high school with the kind of characters who are capitalised. There will be a Femme Fatale, an Anti-Hero on the search for his missing girlfriend, who is herself kind of a Lost Soul. We’ll also have an Arch-Villain who may or may not be the real bad guy, a loyal but kooky Side-Kick. Finally, and here’s the real classy touch, we’ll cast an iconic bad-ass - Richard Roundtree – as the Assistant Vice-Principal. We’ll let these guys run around town for two hours, throwing punches and cute one-liners, and then we’ll end the film, not entirely caring whether or not the plot has been entirely wrapped up. In fact, it’s better if it isn’t – that adds to the whole noir-feel.

Like I said, BRICK is an odd film and it plays it absolutely straight. I have a feeling that whether or not you’ll enjoy it will depend on how far you are willing to just accept this odd world at face value. I went along for the ride and thoroughly enjoyed it mainly because it was just so out of leftfield, partly because it was, on occasion, hilarious, but also because Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in another searing performance. But if you’re no fan of moody, mysterious thrillers and/or prefer your films full of nice cars, beautiful people and explosions, and there’s nothing wrong with that, then BRICK probably isn’t for you.

BRICK premiered at Sundance 2005 where writer/director Rian Johnson won a Special Jury Prize for originality of vision. BRICK went on limited release in the US in April. It opens in the UK this Friday.


  1. Glad you enjoyed it. Did you ever get my review for this?

  2. @Bina. Oh my Lord I can see this turning into another Tenenbaums argument down the Peasant on Fridau night. It's an interesting film butover-hyped. Half the cast can't act. You know as well as I do that this was a suck-ass year for Sundance. This time next year we'll be having the same argument about Little Miss Sunshine

  3. Sorry - didn't enjoy this film - although I really wanted to!

  4. @ Berko. No, we are agreed. LMS sucked. IF we have an argt. down The Peasant it is more likely to be about whether Time To Leave - pretentious or perfect?!

    @ Steve. Fair cop! I felt the same with Confetti. I am more sad/surprised that you didn't like U Carmen that much.