A detective story set around a contemporary California high school, BRICK dares to combine the teen and film noir genres. In mixing these two disparate worlds, Director Rian Johnson creates many comically jarring and ironic moments. When loner Brendan Frye (a barely recognizable Joseph Gordon-Levitt of THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN) gets a desperate-sounding call from his ex-love Emily (Emilie de Ravin), he feels compelled to help her, plunging himself into the seedy world of teenage crime that pulled her away from him in the first place.
Throughout this journey, Brendan plays a hard-boiled type reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart's iconic Sam Spade character. Johnson's script invests heavily in the fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and is filled with other archetypical characters like the femme fatale (Nora Zehetner), the eccentric crime lord (a brilliant Lukas Haas), and the dame in distress. As teens trade in their cell phones for things as old-fashioned as pay phones and 1940s gangster vocabulary, occasional references to detention and first period provide a humorous contrast with the otherwise unbelievable complex, precocious, and largely parentless world that these teens inhabit.
With its heavy reliance on references to old noir classics like THE MALTESE FALCON and THE BIG SLEEP, the film may risk alienating viewers not familiar with these older films. Seeing teenagers speaking in coded detective-movie-style lingo is entertaining, but mixed with the often overlapping, fast-paced but muttered dialogue, it also proves to be distracting at points. People eager to see a predictable teen drama may be confused by BRICK, as its goal is to turn the genre on its head, earning inevitable comparisons to films like 2001's surreal teen fantasy DONNIE DARKO.
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