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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Action > Thriller > Brick (2005)

Brick (2005)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Film: B



With so many bad would-be thrillers and other overhyped junk coming out left and right, Hollywood and related industries have all but destroyed their credibility that anything they say will be good will even be watchable.  It is both sad and embarrassing that such good will has been sold down the river, though that is just one of the many pedestrian problems filmmaking and the industry in general has unnecessarily brought on itself.  Though he wrote the script back in the mid-1990s, Rian Johnson only recently got to complete his murder thriller Brick, first released in 2005.


The film was inspired by both the work of Dashiell Hammett and The Coen Brothers’ best film, their 1990 Gangster genre masterwork Miller’s Crossing.  In it, young high school man Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in another great performance) is a loner who must deal with his girl turning up dead.  He decides to investigate on his own to find out what has happened and finds out there is more going on that he expected or bargained for.  The people he gets to know better in his “investigation” includes the aggressive Tug (Noah Fliess), drug-addict Dode (Noah Segan), sexy Kara (Meagan Good), rich gal Laura (Nora Zehetner) and mysterious figure named The Pin (a great change of pace for Lucas Haas).  Richard Roundtree even shows up as the assistant V.P. of the high school.


Instead of a lightweight transplant meant for debasing a teen market (and the rest of the country and foreign markets for that matter), this is a shocking smart, intelligent, realistic work by a filmmaker of exceptional maturing for his age in a debut feature work.  Johnson knows how to get in there and get great shot after shot, get the best out of his actors, trust his instincts and make this film move.  We used to get this kind of film all the time, but between digital shooting, digital effects and a general apathy and ignorance that has befallen the industry, it is all too rare.


We have been waiting for the next new generation of such filmmakers to arrive, but it is not happening, almost as if certain powers that be do not want to make money on anything but recycled stupidity and the most dumbed-down audience they can find, but that formula is collapsing and nothing is being done to change it.  However, part of changing that is to support films like Brick that work.  Films are exciting, but it is easy to forget with all the junk we keep getting.  This is a mystery film with action that works and works well, maybe like nothing since Memento.  Even if you do not like mysteries, you’ll love this film.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 x 1 image was shot on 35mm film by cinematographer Steve Yeolin and for a film that only cost a half-million to make, it looks better and creates more cinematic space than most films and especially digital HD projects we have seen in the last ten years.  The Cohen Bros. influence extends to the days when Barry Sonnenfeld was such a fine cinematographer before going so blandly commercial as a director.  Too bad for him, but Yeolin is easily picking up where he left off and it brings Johnson’s script even another notch higher.  The only problem is that the transfer here has some softness that is obviously from the transfer and not the source.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not the most spectacular mix, but considering the limited budget, the choice of songs, surrounds and other audio design make for a more distinctive result despite the dialogue-based work.  I wish his were here in DTS, because it also sounds like we are missing something from the original master in fullness.  Maybe when the HD-DVD arrives, we’ll be proved correct, since it was s DTS theatrical release too.


Extras include 20 minutes of interesting deleted/extended scenes, a casting piece and feature commentary by Johnson where he brings on some cats and crew as “guests” before dismissing them like he is on a talk show.  That adds to a track that is already smart, fun and a hoot, reflecting the energy in which the film was made.  Brick is one of those increasingly rare independent surprises like Donnie Darko that are getting harder and harder to come by and may take a few years for its reputation to grow.  However, it is one it deserves.  Finally, a fine film that lives up to all the hype.  Don’t miss it!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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