Modern adaptations of classic styles are extremely difficult to pull off. The most prominent examples being modern adaptations of Shakespeare stories that still utilize his style of English. Brick takes the classic film noir genre and adds its own flavor of teenage angst in a confusing, yet intriguing, tale of love lost and crime.


Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a loner who was recently dumped by the love of his life, Emily (Emilie De Ravin). When she randomly calls for his assistance only to later be found dead, Brendan takes it upon himself to find out what and who led to her murder. We are given teenage examples of the classic film noir characters as the plot thickens and subsequently unravels at a frenetic pace: the dancer/actress (Meagan Good as Kara), the guy who knows everyone and everything (Matt O’Leary as the Brain), the drug dealer (Lukas Haas as the Pin), and the untrustworthy, but beautiful female interest (Nora Zehetner as Laura).

Everything about Brick is in homage to the noir style. The dialogue is almost coded and incomprehensible, much like the classic films, but is taken to a new level in Brick. For the first half hour or so you will barely understand what they are saying to each other. The only way to follow the story is by interpreting what they are doing and with whom they are speaking. Director/writer Rian Johnson clearly asked the actors and actresses to watch the noir films, and mimic the acting. All expressions and movements and tones are completely over the top, but once you realize the goal of this style, it becomes nonexistent. There is also no sub-plot included as a break from the action. The entire film focuses, and relies, on Brendan and his detective work.

Like most heroes of this genre, Brendan has a signature move when leaving an encounter, which is jamming his hands in his pockets and slumping his shoulders to signify how deep and antisocial he truly is. The brooding bad boy act gets old considering he turns out to be extremely smart and one step ahead of everyone else. Gordon-Levitt gives a performance that can be expected and is adequately supported by the rest of the cast who are given ample opportunities to make names for themselves (especially Haas and Zehetner).

The most interesting, which means underused, aspect is when the kids are thrust into normal teenage situations. During the first meeting with the Pin, Brendan is offered cereal and apple juice by the notorious drug dealer’s mother. It is one of the two or three random moments sprinkled throughout the film that make you laugh out loud because they are so out of place.

All in all, many will give up before reaching that half hour mark (even I was considering it), but if you stick it out, you will find a very intense and captivating film. Upon finishing, you will be utterly dumbfounded as to what you have just witnessed, but relatively pleased with how it turned out.

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