Created by Rian Johnson
“The ape blows or I clam.”
Much like The Big Lebowski, Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005) is a P.I. film that has everything you’d want in a P.I. film — except a P.I.
And like the Coen Brother’s Dude, Brick‘s BRENDAN FRYE (in an amazing performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a loose cannon, a shambling social misfit who has to make like a private eye to get out of a jam — and rises spectacularly to the occasion in this quirky little indy flick that wowed ’em at Sundance.
But whereas the Dude played out his gumshoe schtick in a crazed off-kilter world of middle-aged performance artists, psychotic Vietnam vets, opera singers, nymphomaniac trophy wives, self-styled Nihilists and obsessed league bowlers, loner Brendan’s mean streets are… a high school in the endless sun-bleached suburban sprawl of Southern California.
Yep, we’re tramping the same teenage never-neverland that television’s Veronica Mars has already staked out as her own, and yet rookie director/writerJohnson manages to add some seriously trippy original touches to this engaging rip on the classic crime and noir films of the forties and fifties.
Like an adolescent Philip Marlowe, Brendan’s an oddball loner (and possibly the only teenager in SoCal without a cellphone) who doesn’t really fit into–nor pledge allegiance to–any social clique in school, thereby allowing him to move easily between them all in his dogged search for the truth–or something close to it.
Which comes in handy when he discovers the body of his ex-girlfriend Emily lying facedown in a puddle by a drainage tunnel. The police–and the adult world in general–are next to useless, so Brendan decides to look into her murder himself and is soon finds himself bumping up against every cliche of every high school you’ve ever seen (the Brain, the Jock, the Nerd, the Stoner, the Dealer, the Inept School Administrator) — each a sly reinvention of its pulp fiction counterpart (the hired thug, the femme fatale, the stool pigeon, the junkie, the gangster, the corrupt cop, etc.). Marlowe had his seedy little one-man office; Brendan eats his lunch alone by the dumpsters behind the school.
But what’s really fun is the way everyone speaks a sort of stylized, pumped-up hard-boiled slang (“all the jake sprang from him”), full of rude wit and raucous laughter. Including, of course, Brendan himself, who cracks wise and offers a unflinching running commentary that fans of detective fiction will be more than familiar with.
It all adds up to one of the freshest and most stylish back-handed high-fives to the P.I. genre I’ve seen — and a more than worthwhile way for gumshoe fans to kill a few hours. The Dude would approve.
- “…and no more of these informal chats, either. You got a discipline issue with me, write me up or suspend me, and I’ll see you at the parents’ conference.”
— Brendon gets summoned to the principal’s office, but refuses to back down.
- “I’m looking to find this big game The Pin’s played. Not to gum it, but just so when its tail jams in my back I know who to bill for the embalming.”
- “Hard luck in a red kimono.”
— Brendan describing Laura
- Kudos to whoever cast Richard “Shaft” Roundtree as the principal.
- BRICK | Buythis DVD | Buy this Blu-Ray | Watch it now!
(2005, Bergman Lustig Productions)
Written and directed by Rian Johnson
Produced by Ram Bergman and Mark G. Mathis
Executive producers: Johnson Communications and Norman Dreyfuss
Co-producers: Susan Dynner, Dana Lustig and Angela Roessel
Associate producer: Raymond Izaac
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as BRENDAN FRYE
With Nora Zehetner as Laura
and Lukas Haas as The Pin
Also starring Noah Fleiss, Matt O’Leary, Emilie de Ravin, Noah Segan, Richard Roundtree, Meagan Good, Brian J. White, Jonathan Cauff, Reedy Gibbs, Lucas Babin, Tracy Wilcoxen, Ari Welkom, Tangels
- So It’s Come to This
The Film Geeks’ Top Ten P.I. Films. James and Gustavo have spoken.