I should probably watch this movie again before I give it a grade, but, I don't feel like it. In fact, my lack of interest in this movie carries a heavy weight. The fact that I enjoy watching movies over and over again should tell you something; something other than me being a big nerd.
Brick is a Fox Focus feature starring Joseph Gordon Levitt as a fast-talking teen on a thrilling mission to find his missing ex-girlfriend. You may not remember him from the hilarious interstellar sitcom Third Rock from the Sun. Levitt was also in 10 Things I Hate about You, a Shakespearean tale for teens.
Brick, is a film-noir for teens. When I was in school, a lot of kids liked to drop the phrase "film-noir" whenever they talked about "film". While the word sounds cool and complicated, it's secretly an easy concept. Picture an old detective movie with guns, classy dames, and cigarettes. The atmosphere is always dark and gritty. There is always high contrast between the dark and light areas on screen – lots of shadows. The overall feeling is bleak and gloomy, and the characters seem lost in their webs of deceit. Those are the basics. Obviously, there is a little more to film-noir than those few things. Otherwise what would film students talk about?
Brick attempts all these aspects and is about half successful. The most obvious noir-ism presented here is the dialogue. In film noir, characters usually talk a certain way. It's overly dramatic, often over-explanatory, and sometimes slang replaces every day words. Brick does a lot of this, especially the slang. It's interesting at first, seeing high school students talk this way. You have to suspend reality a little to believe it, but you already do that with Laguna Beach. Trying to figure out what the Brick characters are saying is kind of fun. But, when you get to hour 2, it's a little trying. Levitt does a wonderful job of acting tough and bleak. He plays a very convincing angst-ridden teen. Levitt would be flawless, if not for the fact that he's so quiet. I believe the problem isn't of audio quality, but that his sentences are just too long and he's required too speak very quickly. As a result, all the slang is meaningless. Most of what Levitt says is plot summary. He's constantly updating the viewer on what he's doing and why. So because he's so quiet, the already confusing plot becomes even less clear.
The atmosphere of film-noir is my favorite aspect. I like how the directors play with shadows to create suspense. The majority of Brick takes place outside in the bright sunlight. The sun is so bright that the scenes are nearly bleached out. Is this a reversal of dark and light - using extreme lighting to replace extreme darkness? Perhaps… but I doubt it. Also, this movie is in color. I would have loved to see it in black and white.
There are two things I really like about Brick – the editing and the action. There is plenty of fist-fighting going on in this movie. Levitt gets knocked down about 20 times (Did someone say drinking game?). The way the fights are edited make them even more entertaining. I won't go as far to say they're Matrix style… but they aren't boring either.
The editing of the entire film is worth noting. There are lots of visually interesting flashbacks and dream sequences. I read somewhere that the editing was done on a personal computer. That's neat.
Overall, Brick is a decent movie. The concept was great - a detective story brought into the high school world. Of course, the story is entirely implausible, but I'm willing to set that aside for entertainment's sake. The action was great, the acting was pretty good, and there were a few funny jokes that made the movie watchable. I couldn't understand the entire plot though, and I still don't really get it. But if you're not willing to press the rewind button every few conversations and/or you're not willing to watch the movie a second time, I wouldn't bother. There are plenty of movies we all need to watch a second time to understand, but for me, Brick isn't one of them.
For a recent film-noir rent The Man Who Wasn't There or Memento.