Movie Review: Brick

Posted: June 9, 2011 in Cartoon Review, Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Okay, so when I first heard the concept of Brick, I was not a fan. Oh goodie, I thought, a Film Noir set in a high school. There will be teens in fedoras and talking fast like their trying to be Jimmy Cagney, despite the fact that Cagney never made a film noir because he was too big a star to be in those b movies. To be perfectly frank, I was expecting a high school version of Bugsy Malone, complete withy pie shooting machine guns. However, I heard some things and someone sent me the movie as a gift and I had to watch it then. So I watched it and was pleased to discover that my fears were misplaced. This wasn’t a bunch of teenagers playing at film noir, it was film noir playing with a bunch of teenagers. That probably sounds like I said the same thing, but it’s the difference of “I mean what I say is the same thing as I say what I mean.” If you get my drift. To put it in a short, declarative sentence: These guys got what film noir means rather than just trying to ape what it looks like.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

We’ll skip the ‘what works and what doesn’t work’ talk that I normally do here lately, because almost everything works like it’s supposed to. If you’re not digging the movie, then you probably don’t like detective stories much, because this is a private detective story just with the P.I. being a high school student. It’s pretty much kept in the realm of high school as well. Everything here is something that these people could realistically get into. We never have car chases, or gun fights with gangsters in Chinese restaurants. The scale of the story works in the context. As I say, this is a film that really works. I hope you aren’t tired of me saying that, because that phrase is going to come up again. So let’s talk about why I think it works…

A lot of lens flares here. Starting to look a bit too Star Trek for my tastes.

Adults: None. Interestingly, adults don’t really exist in this world. There are a few adults in it, but they’re rarely seen and don’t have a lot of impact beyond the sort of Charlie Brown muted trumpets. You could have almost eliminated them entirely and had no impact on the movie. There is one part that needs the adult and that’s Richard Roundtree’s Assistant Vice Principal who serves as the single authority figure in the movie. True, he plays like an Assistant D.A. right out of TV Tropes or at least out of Film Noir Tropesif there is such a website, which I doubt. This won’t be the last trope, we get a lot of them, but not a narration. Narration is no where near as prevalent in Film Noir as parody and Neo-Noir would have you think. We also avoid a few of the other tropes, like the hard lighting and the constant smoking. Visually, only one character looks like what their character is supposed to be. The femme fatale looks like she wants to be in a movie from the late 40s or possibly the early 60s. Her looks bounces around, but it keeps being like a femme fatale from one of these movies and that’s sort of distracting because no one else looks like their counterparts, but rather like a real person who lives in this world. I suppose you could say that Laura is trying to make that her look, but it’s still distracting when no one else is leaning in that direction.

Huh… well, that’s not what I was expecting to see.

There are a couple of things that really bring a smile to my face, and one of them is how the main character (Brendan) deals with people who would normally be the main antagonist for a movie like this. The football player is quickly dispatched in a single fist fight, and the punk is made out to be a useless pothead before he’s even beat up. The football player particularly is interesting, since he constantly complains about not being put in the game, although it seems to me the coach isn’t putting him in the game because he’s a dope head and possibly a dealer. You have to work to that conclusion, because there are no adults in this world and like every good Hammett story, we keep with Brendan’s viewpoint for the entire tale. The pothead punk though, isn’t nearly as useless as he’s first portrayed as being, although he might be as stupid as he first appears. I really like how character archetypes from Hard Boiled fiction and Film Noir are easily slotted into the world of high school without any real twisting or deliberate mis-shaping. It all just fits, and no one has to fast talk like Jimmy Cagney.

I really just want someone to hold me.

This isn’t an action movie, it’s a murder mystery. There are a couple of bodies, but no big scenes of action with people getting killed. When you see a body, it’s a big deal here. The fist fights are small deals, at least for the most part and you never get the idea of anyone being really imperiled beyond getting their butts kicked. There is danger, but no one thinks that the danger is really going to be fatal. Until you get to the third act, but what kind of an asshole would I have to be to ruin the movie for you? Particularly a movie like this. No, I won’t give you even a hint of a run down of the movie, because almost anything but a bare bones explanation is a major dick move.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty.

Speaking of bodies, it’s no spoiler to give you at least an idea of what the movie is about. The movie opens with a body, like before you even get the title card there is a corpse. I think I’m justified in giving you that much. Brendan’s ex-girlfriend is killed, after calling him in a panic for help with something that she barely explains. Once he gets to talking to her though, she tells him it was a mistake to call and he should just drop it, just like everyone else in the movie does. That’s Film Noir Trope #4 by the way, just in case you were wondering. When Brendan finds the girl dead, he decides to work out who killed her. This sends him down a path looking for not just the killer, but the situation that got her killed. What makes it a great Hammett style story is that he does all this for a girl who dumped him months ago and who didn’t like him much. And he does all this for no profit and in fact, he looses quite a bit by the end.

Now that’s classy.

One interesting point though, and it comes across as part of the feel, you can sort of tell the movie was written in 1996 or so. Here are my reasons. There are no cell phones, there is no internet, and there are actually still phone booths in this world. That helps though, it gives credence to the feeling of this being a retrofied story. Of course if you just decide the story really takes place in 1996, well, that’s okay I suppose. There’s really not much that would say you’re wrong, not really. It doesn’t really matter when the movie takes place exactly. Either way, you should probably go get a copy on DVD. It’s a pretty good movie.

Official Score:
83 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

A scene from the up coming Harry Potter and the Killer In The Rain.

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