Looking at today's brand of cinema, we have seen many classic genres wither away over the last decade. However last year, hope was brought to old school film buffs with "The Artist," a silent film that payed tribute to the once famous, but fading genre. Another genre that has faded over the past few decades is the neo-noir hardboiled detective film. Back in 2005 though, a first-time filmmaker and relatively unknown cast made the acclaimed indie "Brick" that payed tribute to the genre, in addition to partly resurrecting interest in the genre, too.
Brendan Frye (Joesph Gordon-Levitt) is a loner at an unnamed California high school. However, his life takes a huge turn when he finds his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) lying dead in a storm drain. Before she died though, she left Brandon a terrified phone call containing several cryptic words: Poor Frisco, Pin, brick, and Tug. Intrigued by the ambiguous meaning of those words, Brendan decides to investigate her death by navigating his way through the high school's most well-known cliques. He also enlists the help of another outcast known as The Brain (Matt O'Leary) to be his informant on the potential suspects. His investigation soon leads him to the seedy drug underworld of the city where he collides with mysterious socialite Laura, intimidating drug dealer Tugger, jock Brad Bamish, stoner Dode, and the ominous non-student the Pin. All of them are somehow connected to Emily's death, and Brendan is sent on a hellbent investigation that he'll never forget.
Writer/Director Rian Johnson makes his debut in both categories with this film, and he highly succeeds in both of those categories. The dialogue he writes is not only smart, but also inventive because he uses slang terms for certain words familiar to today's generation. However when it comes to the style of his dialogue, it is particularly fast-paced, so there really isn't a moment to turn your attention away from what's taking place. Johnson also directs the film with a slick visual style, and his use of practical effects are quite impressive for a debut director. Furthermore, Johnson's choice of setting this mystery in a suburban high school breathes a brisk change to the genre, in addition to paying tribute to the genre's obligatory aspects which include the overacting, shady characters and constant twists and turns in the plot.
"Brick" is both a resurrection of the neo-noir genre, as well as a smart, clever tribute to the once forgotten genre. Like "The Artist," it's a film that proves that it's never too late to create something that differs greatly from today's type of cinema, but also opens up potential hope that today's generation of moviegoers will likely open their mind to the classics that inspired it. A ferocious filmmaking debut that deserves to stand alongside Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and Spike Jonze's "Being John Malkovich" as some of the greatest directorial debuts in film history, "Brick" is a must see for the most die-hard film fans!
Final Grade: A