Hype is a tricky devil. It can turn a release date into a highly anticipated event, but make a good film a crushing disappointment. Brick received very good reviews from various folk, and as such I went in expecting something amazing. Mr. Hype strikes again.
But let’s hold back on the usual ‘could have been more’ debate, and look at this film through the right lens. Noir is the term, and for a detailed description of what noir entails, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_noir and note the ‘elements’ section. This will give you a clue as to what this film is about.
So, approach this from a homage to noir (what a fun sentence to say in a posh accent) and things start to look better. You have a murder mystery, an alienated hero, a jet black mood and lots of arty farty shots. And it’s all set in high school, but not in an irritating way. These teens are rarely in school, they’re all intelligent enough to be able to scheme and their dialogue is playfully poetic. You’ve got a character called The Brain, who actually looks like Brains from Thunderbirds, and a 26 year-old drug dealer with a cane. It’s teetering on ridiculous and reminded me slightly of Bugsy Malone (which I never warmed to as a child. I didn’t like the kids being scared of those custard guns – couldn’t figure out why they weren’t firing real bullets. I was a slightly disturbed child.)
Anyway, you could take badly to this film and see it as an up itself blah-de-blah type of affair. But keep ‘noir’ in your mind and it hits the spot, mostly because of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He stomps around, hands stuffed into pockets, curly fringe covering moody stare. And when he breaks down in one scene, the raw emotion still trying to be checked by his tough exterior, there’s a strong hint that this guy’s going to be a big contender in the future. And extra points for having a glasses-wearing hero who isn’t a dweeb.
Other high points include some effective use of lighting with a spinning mirror, jarringly cut fights and a chase scene where the only sound is the echo of desperate footsteps. There was some good stuff in this film. But I didn’t come away completely wowed. Why? First off, there’s Mr. Hype. Secondly, I spent a lot of it struggling to hear muttered clues and remembering which one was Tug and which one was Dode. And thirdly the mystery wasn’t that big a mystery. There was a round-up of the plot at the end, which was necessary, but the whole ‘who dunnit’ angle wasn’t mind blowing. The plot wasn’t really clever, just had a lot of names.
So, on a general out of ten rating, Brick makes 8. On the CF rating, it automatically makes 0. There’s an extra point for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and another for creating noir and bringing it into the modern day high school. In total it makes CF2.