Great Neo Noir Films: Brick (2005)

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Brick is a film worth watching, if for no other reason than the fact that it is unlike any other film to date. It takes a modern high school setting and smashes it quite enjoyably into a noir atmosphere. The juxtaposition of high school students with heavy noir tropes is pulled off delightfully by a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a supporting cast of little known actors.

Gordon-Levitt plays a young man who gets a distressing call from his ex-girlfriend. Knowing that she is in trouble, he tries to help, but she pushes him away saying that he can’t help her out of what she has gotten herself into. When she goes missing (and is eventually found murdered) shortly after that, he begins to probe deeper, revealing the school’s criminal underbelly, which is both amusing and well crafted. As Gordon Levitt integrates himself into the criminal organization, he learns that the whole story revolves around a bad brick of cocaine that no one is sure who cut. Levitt must discover who cut the brick to figure out why his ex-girlfriend was killed.

All the quintessential noir elements are acknowledged here while still staying true to the adolescent high school setting:

  1. A smart detective that uses his wits and resources, but still has t answer to a principle who is holding academic probation over his head if he doesn’t rat on his classmates.
  2. An underworld crime boss with minions to do all of his dirty work, a bad brick of cocaine threatening to start an internal war within his organization, and a mother who bakes fresh cookies for him and all of his friends.
  3. A woman who is dating the football jock at the school, but who is surprisingly helpful, and neither the detective nor the audience can be quite sure if she is to be trusted.

The dialogue is crisp, well written and wonderfully delivered. This film reeks of noir, and even when it pokes fun at itself, it never pulls you out of that noir atmosphere. One way that it does this is through the absence of technology; instead of high tech devices and databases, our detective must solve the case is through old school detecting. This helps the whole film feel more gritty and intriguing.

All in all, this is a wonderfully executed neo noir that is fresh and exciting, while always delivering a healthy dose of noir nostalgia.

-Anderson Ryle

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