Newest Review: ... visual film (kudos to director Rian Johnson) and a few characters who are clearly young enough to be molly coddled should they stub thei... more
Noir gets jetted into 00s high school
Member Name: pmcds
Advantages: Clever concept
Disadvantages: Doesn't quite deliver
It's a very clever concept, to be fair: taking a film noir style and applying it to the modern day American high school setting and characters. The direction is crisp for the most part, the acting quite good (again for the most part), and the elements of a film noir all there. But for all this film's efforts at creating something kitsch and cool, Marlowe or Hammett this is not.
For a start, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is no Bogart or Mitchum. The gravitas and presence of the two classic noir actors is sorely missing in levitt's portrayal of Brendan, high school no one who prevents his dead ex's body being found so he can try and solve her murder himself. It's a strange concept that almost comes off, with a clear and uncomplicated number of characters and plot twists, and easy to follow visual film (kudos to director Rian Johnson) and a few characters who are clearly young enough to be molly coddled should they stub their little toes.
In terms of plot, it's all about who killed Emily, Brendan's girlfriend. He enlists the help of a friend, and the plot follows a similar noir feel, taking him from clue to clue, contact to contact, until he meets with the local high school drug boss. It turns out Emily was killed over a brick of heroine, hence the title, and now it's down to Brendan to try and manipulate the various characters he comes across in order to force the truth out.
The thing is, when things do start to emerge, it's a bit uncomfortable as roles that are clearly defined for adults are filled by hyped up teenage characters that don't seem to be able to carry them. The femme fatale is rather soft and ineffective, the sidekick rather dull and one dimensional, and the violent thug and the drug boss are two unlikely characters who don't really intimidate you as you're watching - it's more like watching a muscular comedian trying to be angry and someone with less acting skills trying to act as if he has more than he's got. Somewhat disappointing at times.
But it's the noir traits that keep reminding you that this is a copy of something that fitted decades ago, that has little or no place in today's world, and relies solely on an era gone by being firmly planted in a modern high school setting. Hey, it worked for West Side Story as Romeo and Juliet got thrust into a school, and it worked for Romeo and Juliet getting a modern upgrade with Leo DiCaprio quoting the bard in an annoying drawl to try and woo Claire Danes' gormless Juliet.
But they had a budget, and Brick is sorely lacking some killer punches. It is to be praised for its filming styles, the distant camera shots and patience shown by Johnson throughout certainly something that makes you want to keep an eye out for the future. the overall feel is constant and you have to admire the way Johnson maintains pace from start to finish. It just lacks that certain something you'd expect it to have. I, like another reviewer, watched this merely because it is in Empire's top 500 films of all time, and it's something I'm working my way through. Were it not for that, this film would have completely escaped me. As it stands, it's a clever concept and worth a watch if you're stuck for something, but it's not something I can say I'm relieved was brought to my attention. If you do watch this, you'll appreciate the attempts to mdoernise noir, but if you don't bother then you're not missing anything particularly special.
Summary: Decent but disappointing attempt to modernise the film noir genre