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Film Noir meets 90s High School flick
dylan-8922 March 2005
I saw this film at a sneak preview the other night not knowing what to expect. To say the least I was pleasantly surprised. Film Noir being one of my favorite film genre's, "Brick" follows the same story structure, odd-ball characters, right down to the very smart and quick paced dialogue of a 30s/40s hard boiled detective thriller. The twist that lifts it above parody and even a mere homage is the presentation of these elements with high school kids in Southern California. The direction by Rian Johnson is very expert and confident in telling the story, giving the audience smooth and quick editing along with skewed and distorted camera angles. He manages to maintain suspense throughout the film, only in a couple of parts letting it drag (the scenes with the Drama Queen are some of the weakest). The actors are great, the most memorable being the "villains" Pen and Tugger. Rather than just being atypical baddies, their portrayals give them depth, sympathy, and at the same time a degree of likability. Kudos also goes to the actor who played Brain, the partner of Frye, who is nearly flawless in his somewhat small role. John Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree, shows up as the Vice Principal, but it is obvious they only had the budget to hire him for one day. I have to say this isn't a classic film by any means; I merely decided to give it such a high rating because it attempts something different and succeeds fairly successfully. I've been tired of the mundane films that get released every year, and for once this is something that is completely different; the use of archetypal characters in the setting and delivery not expected. It's a low budget film, but it is obvious to me that that this filmmaker will be heard from again. Keep an eye out.
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extremely enjoyable and unique film!
non_cur16 October 2005
OK...I have never actually commented on a movie on IMDb, but this movie was so great I really felt I had to let people know about it. When I first read the synopsis of Brick at Sundance I was immediately interested in seeing it. "Film Noir set in a high school." I started hearing really terrible reviews of it and almost did not go until the very last day I could. I am so glad I did. It is a very unique film, such a refreshing one for people who have seen it all. So if you want something new and different you will definitely enjoy this. Others may find it is too over-the top for them--it took me several minutes to understand what the characters were even saying at first, in their language that mixed old film noir slang with the new generation of slang. Its very dark and the sound design will even make a person feel uneasy. The director linked sound and image in ways I have never seen, completely enthralling me from beginning to end. This movie is not a relaxing ride. oh! but there are great comedic and ironic moments as well! I think a lot of the criticism I heard of this film was that it was too incomprehensible and unbelievable. I personally really got into the world of this film and it had me on the edge of my seat until the very end. It was so enjoyable to buy into the rules of the film noir/high school drama world and its characters. I did not even recognize the lead character as that kid from 3rd Rock until the end! I hated 3rd Rock, but I absolutely loved and believed in his character here. I loved it! One of my top picks at Sundance this year. sorry I have never written a review...I hope this reveals something about the movie. I really, really hope that it gets released soon! It is one of those interesting movies that could really be a cult classic.
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Outstanding detective film-noir
FritzdaCat5 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Brick Opening shot: A young man squats next to a stream, his head in his hands. What is he looking at? The body of a young woman, lying half in the stream. Next we jump to 2 days before, to follow Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an intelligent, cynical high school student, self-exiled from the cliquish world of jocks, stoners, and socialites. He is stoically heart-broken 2 months after being dumped by his girlfriend Emily (Emilie DeRavin), who left him to pursue that world. A frightened phone call from the missing Emily asking for help and filled with incoherent references to a "brick" and "the pin" prompts Brendan to launch back into high school society. He does this in the movie detective style of Sam Spade ("The Maltese Falcon"), shaking things up with a relentless directness punctuated by well-timed acts of cunning. Once found, Emily recants and asks Brendan to forget everything she said. Of course, we know from the opening scene that things aren't going to go well for Emily, and by this point we also know that Brendan isn't likely to back off from anything.

After Emily's death, Brendan starts looking for answers in earnest, slicing through high school society and the underbelly of suburban California like a weedwacker. Much like the detectives played by Humphrey Bogart in "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep" this battered tough-guy keeps shaking the tree until the answers he wants fall out. His search leads him to the rich femme fatale Laura Dannon (Nora Zehetner), an underworld kingpin (Lukas Haas), and a handful of assorted thugs in a completely amoral teenage world. Battered physically and emotionally, he maintains his cool while playing all sides against each other in an effort to achieve some justice for the girl he loved.

In "Brick," writer/director Rian Johnson pays homage in wonderful style to the classics of noir fiction. Setting the story in the world of high-schoolers allows him to make use of classic detective story characters without seeming redundant. We have a beautiful seductress with ambiguous motives, a dangerous vamp (played brilliantly by Meagan Good, which sounds like a porno name for some reason), a crime boss and his hired muscle, and even a Vice Principal who fills the role of the police captain. Of course, Brendan is the classic loner private eye, moving through a world of scum but never allowing the dirt to get under his skin.

Language is both the strength and weakness of "Brick." Johnson drew heavily from the fiction of Dashiell Hammet (creator of Sam Spade) when writing the film, and that spare, 1940's style permeates the dialog. Suffice to say that these kids do not talk like high-schoolers. That's fine, because a stylized manner of speech suits these extremely cool, stylized characters and sets the proper mood. On the other hand, while the story of "Brick" is not wildly original, it is an excellent, riveting piece of noir fiction which deserves to be appreciated on its own merits and not just in reference to old Bogart movies. The Bogartesque lingo is entertaining, but it occasionally distracts from the story. Also, the linguistic style may simply be confusing and off-putting to audiences not familiar with the older films on which it is based.

Interestingly, none of the principal cast members were familiar with the literary and film sources from which their characters were drawn. This is remarkable, because their characterizations are so dead on, and given without a trace of the self-conscious irony that so often passes for wit. Joe Gordon-Levitt in particular deserves to be a star after this performance. He appears in every scene of the film, channeling the best of Humphrey Bogart.

"Brick" won a special Jury Prize at Sundance, and my understanding is that it has, in fact, been picked up for distribution. I suspect that despite its quality, it may have difficulty finding an audience. I hope I am wrong, because it was by far the best film I have seen this year. 5 out of 5 stars.
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"Where do you eat lunch?" …
jaredmobarak22 July 2006
This is a film I have been highly anticipating for over a year. After first hitting the festival circuit in January of 2005 it went through the cycles, finally getting a stateside limited release at the end of March 2006. Buffalo, I ask you now to open your eyes to a masterpiece of cinema as Brick finally debuts at the Amherst Dipson.

Brick is a not a film as much as a symphony where each instrument is tuned to the beat of the conductor. Each frame is carefully orchestrated and composed to perfection. The dialogue is metered and spoken with a contemporary Shakespearean beat. Writer/Director Rian Johnson has created poetry with his first feature length film. It may be tough to understand the lingo and overall speech used, but as the film advances you begin to know the characters and the words just make complete sense.

We open with the stare of our protagonist—hard and piercing, yet on the verge of tears—eyes slowly welling up as he peers down on a motionless body, facedown in a tunnel's steady, flowing stream. This is film noir at its best: wrong men and notorious women. Our leader into this underbelly of society has recently rolled on his boss to skate clean of a drug deal he was involved with. The cops allow this plea and decide to keep him in their pocket, with what happened as leverage. He stays low, nose clean, until an old love brings him into her world as it's spiraling out of control. Using all his resources around the city, he begins his search to find her and make sure she is OK. He does this for his own means, with a stoicism that hearkens back to Bogart's Sam Spade.

Wait…Did I tell you that the city this is set in is a suburban high school? Johnson has flipped the genre on its head to brilliant effect. Brendan, our medium into the story, is played to perfection by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a senior at the school who has alienated himself by ratting on his drug supplier. The vice-principal is using him to gain intel on the dealings around school, but Brendan will have none of it. He needs to find out what happened to his old flame Emily and see what she got involved in. Enlisting the help of a colleague, Brendan plays his enemies off each other to gain access to the mob boss and dope runner The Pin ("I hear he's supposed to be old, like 26"), whom Emily has wronged. The truth must be found at all costs, either to assuage some personal guilt, to rescue love, to do what's right, to get the bad guys, or maybe all the above. The search for answers leads to betrayal and secrets uncovered and I was there for the entire ride.

Brick is not the 21st century's answer to Alan Parker's Bugsy Malone. This isn't a satire on mob life with children playing men. This is a reawakening of the genre, a subversion of what you expect of it, but played straight as a razor. None of these actors break character and lines like this, echoing a hardened criminal telling off an over-zealous officer, "No more of these informal chats! If you have a disciplinary issue with me, write me up or suspend me and I'll see you at the Parent-Teacher conference," are delivered with straight faces and a piercing confidence. The wit is there and you will laugh to the seeming absurdity, but the weight of the story holds strong. Well-placed humor helps you realize the gravity of everything even more.

Levitt shines in the role and proves to be the best up-and-coming actor of his generation. Following pitch-perfect turns as a violent teen in the wonderful Manic and as a teenage hustler, vagrant in Gregg Araki's disturbing yet unforgettable Mysterious Skin, Levitt is making bold choices and continues a great run with Brick. He is flanked with solid support from "Lost's" Emilie de Ravin as his lost love; Lukas Hass as The Pin, with loyalty straying muscle Noah Fleiss; Matt O'Leary's The Brain, Brendan's life-line to what's happening as he sinks deeper; and Nora Zehetner flawlessly playing the femme fatale which one can never be sure whether to trust. Also, the accompanying score of piano and brass jazz fits perfectly to the atmosphere, especially on a late scene close-up shot of Levitt and Zehetner—faces close- up, lips with an atom of air between them, and a single tear slowly following down the contours of her face—uncannily mimicking the infamous shot of Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca.

Any cinephile with $8 to spend will regret missing an opportunity to see this film. If you love film noir of the 50's, 60's, and 70's check Brick out while you can. Doubtful that it will stay up more than 2 or 3 weeks, it will be coming to DVD on August 8th, however go out and see this gem. It will not be everyone's cup of tea, but whether you love it or not, it holds a place on the timeline of cinema as an experiment in stripping down the essence of noir and showing it in a new and no longer angelic world of children on the cusp of adulthood. "Here's looking at you kid."
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dhealey-117 May 2006
This film is nothing more than an example of someone trying to be clever and seriously failing, ending up being smothered by their own pretentiousness. I watched (endured, suffered, was tortured by) this film at the Deauville Film Festival in Sebtember 2005 and I can safely say that this was, without any doubt and by a very big margin, the worst offering that I saw all week and I have to say I've struggled to find anything worse since then, even when I leave the DVD choice to my 10 year old son. The film is dull, turgid, lifeless and shambolic, it provides no interest or excitement and was viewed by myself as a waste of 110 minutes of my existence. If you want to spend some money and waste a few hours, got to a bar, have a few drinks, believe me you'll enjoy yourself more. If looking at glowing images on a faraway wall that offer you no intellectual stimulation whatsoever without any hint or promise of enjoyment then this is the film for you. For myself, it was too much like group voluntary euthanasia and not an enjoyable experience.
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Transposing geography
El Gato-45 April 2006
The geography of film noir is usually a neighborhood, a city, a region ... BRICK transposes this geography onto a high school with surprisingly successful results. Watching it brought to mind not only the black & white films of the 40s and 50s, but glimmers of Gus van Sant, David Lynch and River's Edge. What gives BRICK its filmic authenticity (much different from realism) is its language -- the language of Chandler and Hammett, but re-imagined from the lips of contemporary teens.

The effect is staggering. BRICK essentially re-creates a world we thought we knew. Suddenly there are forces at work that we recognize because we knew they were there. But to see them in this noir glow is to give them an exciting new life ... "to see them again for the first time." There are plot twists and surprises aplenty here, although familiar once you realize the inspirations for the film. But familiarity is more than compensated by a superb cast and (not generally noted in these comments) excellent music. Contemporizing the soundtrack keeps us on our toes and makes a significant contribution to the tension of BRICK.

A terrific debut!
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Disappointment with capital D
jazzamind7 December 2006
Well this was one of the movies I was really looking forward to see this year, not only because the whole concept of the film sounded exciting(for instance, on the DVD-box it said that it was the smartest indie flick since Donnie Darko!), but also because it came highly recommended by my brother, whom I consider(AND STILL DO)someone who truly knows what he is talking about...

And I also consider myself one of the more experienced,open-minded movie-lovers...

But this film? Come on... I thought it was extremely boring, confusing, and full of really badly articulated and impossibly hard to understand(not only because of the language that was used, but mainly because they did not speak but mumble throughout),right from the start.

I wanted to give the film a chance though, convinced the genius aspect that I had missed so far, was still coming up, and that right then and there I would fully understand the greatness of the film.

Only that didn't happen...

I found myself not caring what happened to any of the characters in the movie, and it touched me in no way whatsoever...

Why?Why?Why? Why do people love this movie? What have I missed? You now I am typing these questions, but don't answer them,please. I really don't care...

Just a little advice...Don't waste your time on this piece of you know what...
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rlaux23 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Why does everyone feel they must rave about a movie simply because it was not made by a major studio? This isn't just a movie about teenagers and starring teenagers, it looks as if teenagers wrote, produced, directed, filmed and edited it. Kids with a video camera could have made a film that looked better. There are way too many holes and credibility gaps in the story and far too many unsympathetic characters. They finally show Brendan in some pain, although he probably should have died from his untended to internal injuries a third of the way into the film, and the "profoundly moving" and carefully kept secret revealed at the end was hardly a secret, and not very meaningful. The use of a single key word as a title has become rather annoying, but there is a common street term for excrement used in the movie that would have served just as well.
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Phony, gimmicky attempt at a noir story in a high school setting
ametaphysicalshark5 August 2008
"Brick" is completely lacking in any sort of believability or even plausibility, and even if you pretend that it takes place in an alternate universe where everybody speaks 'stylized' as opposed to English, the dialogue sounds silly and ridiculous spoken by typical high school kids. I can buy this sort of stylized dialogue if spoken by gangsters and private detectives, but high school kids? Even in a fantasy universe the characters have to be believable but in this case the characters, their motives, their lives (lifestyles, more like), their way of speaking, and their mannerisms completely lack believability or plausibility and while I SHOULD be invested in the outcome of the film's events I simply cannot be because I'm reminded over and over again that these characters aren't plausible.

"Brick" is original in the sense that there are no other stylized neo-noir films set in high school, but it lacks originality in all other areas. Rian Johnson's (who is clearly, based on this film, a very talented director) direction is almost too inspired by classic noir for the film to work in its own right. It's certainly pretty to look at, and quite well-paced, but it's far too concerned with being an homage to bother with feeling genuine. The same could be said of the plot, characters, and dialogue, which are all so 'inspired' by Raymond Chandler and countless other sources that they seem far more interested in packing in homage after allusion after homage after allusion than telling a story. The story itself is mildly interesting, and some of the plot twists and turns got an 'ooh' out of me, but the whole thing feels completely phony and soulless. The sort of thing that would have been fun as a 10-minute short for film class, but is incredibly frustrating as a feature.

The acting is good from everybody involved, and Rian Johnson's shot composition is excellent, as well as the cinematography by Steve Yedlin and the score by Nathan Johnson. The script is outrageously silly and over-the-top, but at least the film is nice to look at.

A noir story in a high school setting is a reasonable idea, and this film could have been quite good, but instead of working in all the staples of a noir Johnson instead goes all out and makes something so frustratingly derivative and intensely stylized that it doesn't for a second feel plausible. No, I'm not looking for realism here, just some form of plausibility and believability. Do you question the world of "Star Wars"? Do you question the persistently stylized dialogue in classic noir films? No, of course you don't, because they feel genuine. Above everything else, "Brick" is completely phony. Not a second feels real, and by the tenth time Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempted a Marlowe routine I was already shaking my head in disbelief at the waste of talent this film was. It's so phony and so gimmicky that it becomes genuinely hard to sit through.

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Fantastic take on noir genre in a modern setting.
dutch10115 October 2005
Just saw this at the Chi. International Film Festival, and must say it was the best feature film that I have seen all year. Excellent tribute to the noir genre, with sort of a Raymond Chandler-esquire slant to the dialog, a sort of hard-boiled type protagonist, and the typical twists, turns and double crosses that come with the territory. All this while taking place within the confines of a modern California high-school social scene. Somehow manages to walk the line of homage, send-up, and original film incredibly well. Parts were edge-of-your seat, parts had me cringing with pain or shock, and parts had me in stitches. Well worth seeing.
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Worst movie I've seen in years
hpmc64 October 2006
I tried stretching to watch this movie with an open mind, some 'arty' movies take a while to build toward a payoff. But the clues that were shown to me in this mystery pointed toward no payoff whatsoever, so I didn't finish it. It sucks. I hadn't heard much about the movie, so I was wondering 'is this an un-funny farce?'. I guess it isn't a farce, it's supposed to be a noir. It's a disaster.

Unbelievably pretentious dialog, and 'hipster' speech. I thought that kind of talk died in the 1970s.

The mindset of the teenagers, trying to put forth this 'world' they supposedly live in, in a high school setting just doesn't fly. It's like a very, very bad high school play, painfully aware that these are just kids trying to be something they're not, never have been, and never will be. Even high school at it's worst was never that bad. Seriously, this film gives you respect for the portrayal of high school in Beverly Hills 90201, which at least had *some* believability to it, even if you didn't like it. In most films, with good or bad acting, I'm generally not aware that they are acting. Not the case here.

Pretension takes an even worse form in the wardrobes. I didn't check the spoilers box, and I'm new at this, so I'll be vague. All I'll say, is that I stopped the film and gave up at the introduction of a character, who was dressed too stupid for me to watch. (those reading this who have seen the film probably can guess who I'm talking about, lets just say he made the film a CAPEr)

You've got to have some respect for the audience This director, clearly doesn't. As for those who say that people who didn't like the film 'didn't get it', ie, modern film noir, compare this to 'Match Point', made the same year. This film is just a very tired rip-off of whatever it was trying to reference.

The saddest thing is, since the film had popularity, there may be outsider kids who try to model some of this style in their own high schools, and it's going to take them down another notch they cant afford
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Superficial flaws distract from its fundamental defects.
guitarbloke1 June 2007
There's so much bad to say about this movie, and so little space... a)World-weary cynicism works in 30-40 year olds. In kids this age, it's just irritating. b) No likable characters whatsoever c) No believable characters whatsoever d) All of the bad guys are straight out of "Bugsy Malone", but lose their appeal due to lack of Splat Guns. e) Plot that consists entirely of holes. The plot is also hamstrung by points b) and c) in that you really don't care what happens to the horrid little brats.

It's overly knowing, references films to which it's the palest of pale imitations, tediously shot, and it's fairly obvious that the only direction the actors were given were a bunch of magic markers and a pack of valium. Should not be watched by anyone under the age of 20 (will make them think they're cleverer than they really are) or over the age of 20 (risk of dangerously high blood pressure).
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Bugsy Malone goes to high school
mjanean26 January 2005
'Brick' is a film noir murder mystery featuring contemporary high school students who talk and behave like 1940's-style gangsters.

I hastily bought a ticket to 'Brick' at the Sundance Film Festival, knowing nothing about it but what was written in the Sundance catalog. I almost didn't go to the 9:15am screening but I am so glad I did. 'Brick' was by far the best of the eight films I'd seen up until then. It's one of those rare movies that keeps me grinning throughout, delighted by every turn of the grim plot.

The slang is thick but contextual. Watch closely for little camera tricks like a clock that reads 5:45 until it comes into focus and suddenly reads 8:30.
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Absolute rubbish!
eroka16 July 2006
I am a true film lover. I watch for indie stuff and I respect efforts even if they are mediocre. "Brick" is an absolutely well-made student film, and that's where it should stay. Watching this in the West End after weeks of inclusion in "London's best films at the mo" list I went and watched it. Awful. Sound is horrible. Dialogue is trite if you can actually understand it. Locations are "no budget" and ineffective. The movie is not engaging (with 15 minutes I realised this was a major mistake) and at best will make you smile. Characterisation is bad. But all that is just not the real bottom line: it's damn boring and acts as a very long joke in cinematic reference. There is nothing brilliant about unless the whole production was under-aged, which would be admirable. Total rubbish - avoid at all costs. and I am writing this comment JUST because someone here must sound the siren, amongst all these favorable reviews. Can't get it how so many thinks highly of this flick. AVOID!
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Brilliant modern day Film Noir with color, drugs and a twist
big_novak2 April 2006
That's the story, right? Going back to the days of "China Town" with Jack Nicholson chasing lead after lead, turning corners left and right, only to find more corners. Who's duping who? We don't know until the very end in this fast-paced, hipster lingo drenched wild revival of the classic Black and White Film Noir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (yes, the kid from Third Rock) is a brilliant hero/foil as Brendan, the bitingly dry, quick-witted, scrappy and yet reluctant detective trying to walk his way through a web of lies, more lies, murder and lots of missing drugs. His character is bright, he can read a situation like a psychic on crack, turn things to his favor in seconds and play people as deftly as he is ultimately played himself. ...And he can take a punch. The plot turns this way, then that, keeping you constantly guessing as to where it will take you next. As soon as you think you know what's going on, you don't. Nora Zehetner is a beautiful and beguiling femme fatale. "The Brian" (Matt O'Leary), who is constantly feeding Brendan his facts and keeping him on track, knows his stuff but never let's you know how. Rian Johnson has written an amazing script and directed it into a whirlwind experience of near misses, painful betrayal and love/love lost. The lingo takes a second to catch. I'm reminded of Swingers, had it been as thrilling as it was funny. The words fall into place and give the film a slick, quick delivery like the best exchanges between Bogart and Bergman, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Take all that and drop it into a dark, starkly brutal modern world... In a high school, of all places. There's even some quirky humor thrown in, though most of the laughs from the audience were really nervous release from all the tension built into the story. A must see.
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Pretentious and technically weak
cjbennett-119 April 2006
We had high hopes for this film from the trailers and the reviews. We had to walk out after 30 minutes. Maybe it was just the print we saw, but the sound quality was abysmal -- overly loud, fuzzy, and half the dialog was incomprehensible (as in: can't even make out the words, forget about what they might mean). What we could make out was clearly trying to be Raymond Chandler noir, but it was totally unbelievable coming out of the mouths of unformed and apparently characterless SoCal high school kids. Too many of the scenes were clearly chosen because no-one would be around during filming -- they didn't establish a sense of place, they just screamed "we have no budget". The hero couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. He gave us absolutely no reason to be interested in him, and no reason to believe he had any idea what he was doing, although he was clearly supposed to be on the ball.

Very disappointing. Went home and watched Veronica Mars instead. Equally unbelievable but far more engaging.
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cstreather22 May 2006
I was really looking forward to seeing this film but what a huge disappointment it turned out to be. I hated the film. I have never before in my life wanted to walk out of the cinema during a film. However, I sat it out till the bitter end hoping that it would improve. This film is a shambles. It is incomprehensible. The dialogue is inaudible. Throughout the entire film, I couldn't focus on the story because I was just trying to figure out what everyone was saying. It was really annoying and so for me the whole film just doesn't work. The film is painful to watch. The film is so predictable, badly acted and ridiculous. It tries so hard to be "cool". What a complete waste of my time and money.
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Watching this is as enjoyable as taking a brick to the head...
chucknorrisfacts15 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This movie just kind of irritated me. I had heard how good it was, so I decided to go ahead and check it out on Netflix instant stream. I'm sorry I did now.

I don't know why this keeps happening to me lately where I keep running into movies that've been overly hyped.

I don't know what the deal is -- do people just want to like a movie so badly they say it's good even if it's not? Another movie that fits that bill for me right now was "Drive". Everybody kept talking about how good it was, and all I saw was a shameless rip off of "The Driver" starring Ryan O'Neal, except for the fact that "The Driver" was actually good while "Drive" put me to sleep.

I understand what this movie was trying to go for with the whole "neo-noir" thing, but I don't really think it succeeded. The dialogue was so garbled and incoherent, I could hardly understand what was being said.

I don't know what others saw in this, but I just wasn't impressed. At best, I'd give it probably a four or five out of ten. I don't recommend checking this movie out.
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Kids Playing Grown-ups, Talking Nonsense
tamemlin10 October 2006
This is a very irritating film. It's like Bugsy Malone without the songs. It all comes across as kids doing Film Noir for their school project - badly. It is an unengaging story about an unlikable girl who goes missing, and her miserable ex-boyfriend who tries to solve the big mystery. Yawn. The dialogue is perhaps the most annoying part of Brick. Clearly the writer has mistaken 'incomprehensible' for 'clever'. It's all gabbled nonsense like "Jimmy C got goosed by the bulls and now I'm half-galloned to Milwaukee. Find out where Eddie Cheerio hides his cake and then meet me behind the Flapjack shop at a quarter past lunch." Or something.

In truth the film is slightly better than a 1, but is just so irritating in how smart it thinks it is that it needs bringing down a peg or two.
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It just doesn't work
lyre15 May 2006
When I heard that Brick was a "film noir set in a high school", that sounded good. Had I known what it really was, I'd have saved my time and money.

Brick tries so hard to be a film noir of the 30s that it puts the slang of the 30s into the mouths of current-day high school kids. This is fun for a few moments, but quickly becomes silly. High school kids don't call each other "shamus" or go "on the lam", etc. If it was set in a 30s high school, that could work. But having period dialog in a current-day movie is just strange, not interesting.

Then there's the length. Film noir tended to be short: 90 minutes... not 2 hours! If you're trying to copy film noir, how about copying the length so that it doesn't become boring? This film could easily have been cut down by at least 30 minutes and wouldn't have dragged so much.

The production values were also spotty. In an overly-long final scene, the sky is so bright that the character is washed out completely.

But the real problem is that this film doesn't know what it really wants to be. Is it taking place in a high school or not? The characters don't interact at all like high school kids. They interact as if they're playing a grade-b film noir and are adult cops and robbers. The high school setting is a backdrop that isn't really used at all. None of the activities or dynamics of a high school appear anywhere in the film. Instead, we get scenes where the Vice Principal (whom they call the VP) calls the protagonist into his office as if he were a police commander talking to a renegade officer. It just doesn't work. The gimmick gets old quickly, and we're left with nothing else.

This would have made a good novelty short, but it fails as feature film.
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Saw the film at a screening, I'm telling all my friends...
RedEarthCognac22 March 2005
An instant classic. At once, it demands respect for its efforts. Creating an original film amidst the money-press-like formulaic cookie-cutters is reminiscent an act of rebellion against "the man", and this film has done a beautiful job of sticking it to 'em.

This is just an example of how a movie should be made, and I don't say things like that lightly.

Hell, you know it's going to be interesting when Neilson can only compare and contrast it with things like Memento and Donnie Darko on their little questionnaire. Rock on for intelligent life out there, keep it coming! I for one can't wait till it's released so I can watch for the things I know I missed! -Cognac
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Film Noir Wannabe Falls Flat
kescham22 May 2006
The language is unintelligible and far from an homage to film noir - more it is an attempted rip off of the genre which falls flat on it's baby face. The plot, such as it is, is unbelievable, and I am reminded throughout that THESE ARE HIGH SCHOOL CHILDREN behaving badly. They are not hard-boiled detectives, they haven't earned the right to be hard-boiled. The filming is so flawed that it's almost impossible to concentrate on what IS going on without being distracted by all the flubs. Maybe people get-off on seeing children playing at being adults, I don't. I would suggest that you save your hard-earned money and rent a real classic film noir. Let this one die the unnatural death it deserves.
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Strange but fun and gripping
kmserlin21 October 2005
Saw this at the Mill Valley Film Festival. It's essentially a film noir set in present-day San Clemente High School, reminiscent of "The Big Sleep," but with drug-dealing added to the mix of double-crossing. The characters may be teenagers, but the dialog channels Chandler and Hammett, and my only real complaint with the film is that Joseph Gordon-Leavitt (in an otherwise wonderful performance) sometimes mumbles; this is dialog you don't want to miss. Lukas Haas is wonderfully eccentric in what is essentially the Sidney Greenstreet role, Noah Fleiss as the dumb thug, and Nora Zehetner even LOOKs like Mary Astor. As with all the great American noir films, there are many sardonic laughs inserted into the dark story.
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hyperbee1126 January 2005
This is an EXCELLENT and delightfully surprising movie. Its style is refreshing, its dialoque fascinating, the performances powerful, and the story is both energetic and fun. I just caught this movie at the sundance film festival and can't help hoping that A LOT more people get to see it. The amazing attention to detail by Rian Johnson (the writer/director) and the incredible performances by Haas, Zehetner, and especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt marks this very commendable film. I remember sitting in the theater before the film started, completely disappointed by the last two films I had seen the night before. I truly wasn't expecting to be wowed or even awake, but from the very first scene I had to keep "my specs peeled". We just don't get to experience the feel of this movie anymore. I highly recommend it once it's out.
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Not even a good student film
jt19998 May 2010
This pretentious load of student-film crap is slow and painful torture.... confusing, rapid-fire gibberish being mouthed by non-actors, and unnecessary dolly shots do not a good movie make.... This is what happens when film students watch "The Maltese Falcon" one too many times... but Joseph Leavitt-Whatever is no Bogart, and whoever directed this amateur-hour affair is no John Huston, not by a long shot.

Lukas Haas, the cute kid in "Witness" is now a freak, suitable for David Lynch films. He and the rest of the cast seem to be asleep.

Whoever edited this -- probably the director -- ought to be shot. And by the way, smoke does not come out of a person's head when they are shot... this only happens only in bad movies.

This should be in the student category, not the professional feature film category. I want my money back.
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