Earlier this year Rian Johnson’s Looper was released and was well received amongst both critics and audiences. It was easily the most successful film released by Johnson, a film maker whose career has suffered from mild obscurity. His off-beat way of storytelling mixed with a love for old slang and the “cool factor” gives almost everything he does an early 20th century film noir sheen. This style worked particularly well with his first endeavor, Brick. Brick is a modern day re-telling of the classic noir The Maltese Falcon. Joseph Gordon-Levitt Takes the leading role as Brendan, a smart kid with a knack for solving problems that the police force can’t quite manage. While the premise of a high school kid solving crimes could easily be mistaken for a scooby-doo type adventure film, Brick is a dark and gritty thriller. Brendan starts the film investigating the unexpected murder of his ex-girlfriend, along the way he gets caught up in a deeper investigation into the local drug scene. He pools his resources and risks his neck, not only to find the source of the violent act, but to put an end to it’s reign.
Again, the cool factor in this film is so prevalent, it almost seems as if Johnson is as in love with his own dialogue as Quentin Tarantino. This isn’t a bad thing, however. It ads to the atmosphere and smooth nature of the film to hear high school students talk fluently in noir slang. The wording of the script certainly ran the risk of clunking things up to the point of complete distraction, however it works incredibly well, thanks to a talented cast that manages to execute their roles with ease. Johnson builds a world of tension and suspense that is realistic, while avoiding melodrama. In a film like this, a lack of budget can cause filmmakers and actors to attempt to compensate in other areas. One of the most frustrating things to see an otherwise good movie do is to overcompensate the emotions of the characters. Brick manages to reign in the right amount of emotions while never going overboard, leaving us with satisfyingly believable characters that we can sympathize with.
Brick was filmed with an incredibly meager budget of just under a half a million dollars. Despite this fact, everyone involved with this film dedicated themselves to making a quality film, regardless of what their budget constraints were. One of my favorite parts about watching this movie is seeing the locations, it’s filmed almost entirely in San Clemente California, just a 10 minute drive from my parents house. Opting to use locations that could accommodate the story as opposed to building sets and using sound stages, the film not only saves money, but gains a certain level of authenticity and realism. It’s not a “cheap” looking movie either. It is by no means lavish and vibrant, but the production value seems to have suffered very little due to the little amount of money used to make the film. Johnson proves himself to be a competent writer and director, which is why it’s so exciting to see him making more films.
With the powerhouse that JGL has become in recent years, it’s interesting to watch one of his small, independent films; the likes of which he gained traction for his career (excluding Angels in the Outfield, of course). Both the protagonist and the writer/director of the film have gone on to make bigger and more expensive movies. They’re growing as filmmakers and actors but they have a raw talent that is often times is only fully appreciated when watching a project like Brick.
Met Ryan Johnson in San Clemente at the local screening of Brick- neat guy. loved Brothers Bloom as well as highly appreciated Looper. (it was a bit gory for me at times…though- )but a great story and well done.
That’s awesome! I need to re-watch Brothers Bloom, I haven’t seen it since I bought it a few years back.
I really liked this movie. I will be watching what Rian Johnson does next. It is impossible not to track Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career since he is in everything or at least rumored to be in everything.
This is one of my favorite movies! The dialogue and story and the actors were all just brilliant-definitely agree it was a gorgeous modern take on classic film noir. Even though I can’t keep up with the dialogue, that’s part of the fun-not unlike some Humphrey Bogart movies. Fast-paced, slick, and gritty. JGL plays a wonderful flawed protagonist-interesting since he usually plays the boy next door type of roles now.