Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brick (2005)


After the death of his ex-girlfriend, Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) heads into the drug ring underworld of his high school in order to find her killer.

Since it's release I've heard nothing but overbearing praise for this 2005 noir mystery film. And following my love of Johnson's 2009 film The Brothers Bloom, I made a personal note to check this film out. To say the very least: Brick is a highly stylized verbal narrative, with elements of mystery, and some action. The movie's dialogue requires your mind to be at its absolute peak (or have thesaurus and dictionary websites readily available) as its riddled with slang, and quick talk. The world of Johnson is not one in which everything is spelled out in simple, elementary, words, but through a variety of analogies, and interesting word usage.

Overall this is both the film's greatest strength, and its greatest weakness. With little on screen action, the slang heavy dialogue can either attract or repulse the viewer. If they find it catchy, intriguing, and worthy of a deeper look, they'll find the meaning behind what is being said, and it makes for a much easier viewing experience. While on the other hand if they find it annoying, overly stylized, and devoid of real meaning, they'll likely sit through frustrated after many "what the hell does that mean" moments. Luckily for myself I leaned just enough in the attraction to make this a perfectly interesting go around.

Though at the heart of the dialogue is the film's characters. The actors portraying said characters can some with a mix bag. While Levitt, Matt O'Leary, and Nora Zehetner seem to perfectly embrace their characters' odd quirks, others (such as Noah Fleiss and Lukas Haas) feel as if they're trying to force their emotions. This isn't always the case, but for the most part the movie's acting takes a strong backseat to the dialogue, and style of Rian Johnson. And that style is at the heart of what makes Johnson's Brick work so well. It's unmoving in its dedication to that style (derived from classic noir films, spaghetti westerns, and Cowboy Bebop - according to IMDB), and the way these characters move throughout the environment. It helps to create a captivating visual world... even if it does lack the depth to be truly memorable.

Despite its obvious flaws, this heavily stylized 2005 film works because of strong dialogue, dedication to its style, and a strong enough story to carry the time.

9 better thoughts:

thistimeitwillbedifferent said...

I've got to say I really, really like this. Like pretty much 5* like this.

I've watched it 3-4 times now and each time I get something new out of it. I think you rightly say that the dialogue is the key factor here and you'll either learn to accept it and let it flow over your ears or it will be a barrier to your enjoyment of the film.

There is real visual flourish to Johnson's work and his use of sound and structure also hint at soemone who knows what he's doing beyond apeing the genres you mention. I agree some of performances are a bit spotty but I think the key ones are excellent and the peripheral ones largely inconsequential to the film's quality.

Wes22 said...

This is a great film. I was wondering if you had seen another Gordon-Levitt film, "The Lookout". I think it might be his finest.

Univarn said...

@ttiwbd I admired the visuals but my liking for them swayed a bit back and forth. Overall though definitely a solid film, and I can really tell why people rate it so highly.

@Wes22 I did, and it's definitely a great film. I think I gave it about an 8. My only gripe was a rather slow first hour, but solid development almost always works for me.

Rick "The Hat" Bman said...

I am in the minority on this one but I really hated this movie. To me it just felt like the movie was far too self aware. It seemed like they were just trying way to hard to be film noir. I thought the dialog just went way too over the top in trying to create a film noir vibe. The film also used a lot of film noir lighting techniques but again they just went way to over the top with them. Add in the fact that I didn't find any of the decisions made by the main character to be the least bit believable and I just really got no enjoyment out of the movie. I get that Rian Johnson was trying to be stylistic but he just took it too far.

That is just me though... I know that I am one of the few that hated it. Of course that is one of the great things about films like this... so many people have so many differing opinions.

filmgeek said...

I'm with thistimeitwillbedifferent. I really liked this film from the first time I saw it and seem to get something new out of it every time I watch it

M. Carter @ the Movies said...

"Brick" blew my mindhole. Never seen anything like it before or since. It also made me love Rian Johnson. Now this is a guy who's making creative movies. They may not be perfect, but they ARE bold and original.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has done so much good work that I hate to say this is my favorite role of his, but it might be. He sold me on the dialogue, and he also made Brendan a fierce and unforgettable character.

Sasha (The Final Girl Project) said...

I FUCKING LOVE THIS MOVIE! I'm so, so, so happy you watched it. I'm a sucker for film noir and J G-L. AGAIN, I fucking love this movie, and I'm now going to rewatch it...

Simon said...

This movie's my love. That is all.

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