Brick (Johnson, 2006)

Rian Johnson’s flashy and flimsy debut works best as an introduction to the complexities of Neo Noir (my students loved it), playing with the classic genre conventions just enough while injecting a modern energy into what boils down to a very standard plot. Having disliked the film immensely upon it’s 2006 release, I can still say upon second viewing that the third act is a messy hodgepodge of posturing characters and inane crescendos of violence. But that’s not to say Johnson isn’t an immense talent, especially at subverting expectations with characters.

Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Brendan is a brilliantly conflicted centerpiece who keeps evolving to his surrounding environment, at times vulnerable and melancholy, while at others deceptively brutal. Despite what the film’s defenders continue to say, Brick stands upright because of Brendan’s pain and longing for a sense of place, not because his roundabout dialogue or street smarts. In the end, Johnson’s main focus remains teen identity snuffed out by adult cynicism, an unsettling theme when considering the generation immediately younger than your own.

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3 thoughts on “Brick (Johnson, 2006)

  1. Jim – there are so many elements to enjoy about this film, yet an equal amount to make you scratch your head. I’m hoping The Brother’s Bloom will be a step further toward maturity after an interesting but sometimes juvenile debut.

  2. Once again Glenn, I WILL FIGHT YOU! I found Brick to be a very clever idea, well executed with enough mysterious flair to keep it interesting. I think it’s ultimate flaw lies in the conflict between hardboiled noir and slapstick comedy. The main baddie, some kid living with his mother, was by far the most ridiculous addition. Levitt character, some of the minor thugs, and the three fatale dames are brilliant. I think that Rian was conflicted in his vision and didn’t want to come out of the gates taking himself too seriously, especially with an experimental idea such as this one.

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