Careful use of Spanish-flavoured old LA locations, low-slung camera angles and a devotion to hard-boiled dialogue, often maddeningly mumbled, make director Rian Johnson’s debut one of the most authentic nu-school noirs for some time. All the genre types are there – the honourable loner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the femme fatale (Nora Zehetner), the urbane crime lord (Lukas Haas), the thick-as-pigshit muscle (Noah Fleiss). The plot too is the real deal – brain-strainingly complicated and/or pointless, you’re never sure which. The twist is – there isn’t a person in the movie over high school age. Which serves to put a shiny new coat on the old genre. And shows that, if nothing else, Johnson knows how to grab the attention. Except there is something else – brains, talent, chutzpah. After Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin last year, in which he played a young man with a troubled past, Brick sees Gordon-Levitt throw off the “he’s the kid from Third Rock from the Sun” tag and enter a whole new world of cool. Like watching Raymond Chandler done by nativity play kids, some of the thrill of watching Brick is in watching teenagers (JGL is actually a baby-faced 24 but even so…) ape the manners and attitudes of people much older. Alan Parker’s Bugsy did something similar. Could anyone except a real churl take against a film like that?
© Steve Morrissey 2006