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Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, Nora Zehetner, Emilie De Ravin, Noah Fleiss

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"Brick" is like "The Big Sleep" for high school kids, a brilliant teenage film noir with suspense around every turn. The Bogart role here is played by Joseph Gordon Leavitt (of 3rd Rock from the Sun), a performance that hasn't been this surprising since Thomas Haden Church (i.e. Lowell from "Wings,” he wowed us in "Sideways"). Leavitt plays Brendan, a teenager who’s a bit of a loner. He receives a call from his panic-stricken ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) who says that someone is after her. With this, Brendan is brought back into the world of the person he cared about the most, and the person who hurt him the most.

He re-traces her steps through old acquaintances, a manipulative actress (Meagan Goode), a football player (Brian J. White), a punk (Noah Segan), and a poet (Nora Zehtner) who seems to be hiding something. When Emily winds up dead, Brendan goes on the offensive, trying to figure out who is responsible and why it happened. His efforts bring him to The Pin (Lukas Haas), a coke-dealer who may have something to do with Emily's disappearance.

Mystery, deception, intrigue – everything about this movie is engaging and intense. Everyone Brendan comes in contact with has a sinister quality about them, whether they’re murderous or just untrustworthy is part of the fun of this story. We never know until the time is right; and when those revelations finally do come to the surface, the movie is never better. Director/ Screenwriter Rian Johnson proves to be a pro at this genre, especially with the dialogue, which captures the sharp comebacks of old movies and a new batch of cool, coded words like "blow,” "duck soup," and “Yeg.” The dialogue alone is enough to excite us. And while there is action, it is there to progress the story and remains very simple – a foot chase between Brendan and a knife wielding thug, a couple of fist fights in which characters are repeatedly pounded in the face, and a few bloody ends are met by some characters. But it all works because Johnson has managed to make us care.

The film is anchored by Leavitt, who is tough and clever but remains identifiable because he has pain over letting the best thing he ever had slip away. Johnson writes this character as something of a private detective, but also as a young kid going through the turmoil of young love. The rest of the cast isn’t given as much screen-time, but they shine when allowed. Haas’ quirky spin on the Kingpin and Noah Fleiss’ over-amped performance as The Pin’s hired muscle are two of the most notable, and Zehtner is beautiful, sweet, and gets the job done.

“Brick” is a fantastic breakthrough film. Johnson has done his homework and delivered something that's cool, fun, clever, and that never lets up in excitement. When a movie is going to be a huge hit you can just sense it and this one really deserves it. This is the kind of flick Hollywood just doesn't make anymore, that rare film that manages to excite us through intellect, plotting, and talent and not over-produced chases and special effects. After such duds as "V for Vendetta,” "Firewall" and "16 Blocks,” it's nice to finally see a thriller that actually knows how to thrill.

*Review by LEE, Lee's Movie Info


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