A review of “Brick” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for violence and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

 

 

Hard-boiled noir meets contemporary SoCal in this richly textured and abstract teen thriller.

An austere Japanese influence colors a weird odyssey of missing persons and underground realities. Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the consummate high school outsider; smart, savvy and determined to be true to himself. When ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin of TV’s “Lost”) reaches out to him via a disturbing phone call and then vanishes, Brendan takes action.

Brendan’s desire to locate his troubled ex is all-consuming, driving him deep into the recesses of San Clemente’s adolescent vortex. With the help of the school brain trust (Matt O’Leary), the snotty rich-girl (Nora Zehetner) and the dumb jock (Brian White) Brendan pieces together Emily’s final moments.

Brendan’s investigation runs him headlong into The Pin (Lukas Haas) a menacing twenty-something kingpin cum pusher who lives with Mom and whose shady dealings are drolly sinister.

“Brick” is cutting edge cinema; winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize for Originality. “Heathers” is a walk in the park compared to this jittery mystery that numbers Woo, Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky among its cinematic influences. Narrative finesse and Darko-esque style are so hip it hurts, all whipsmart dialogue and cult leanings.

Levitt’s smart read of his pubescent private dick is refreshingly prickly. As a counter-fashionable gumshoe he spouts 30s clichés with contemporary chic. Tangential characters are saturated in stereotype and the plot whispers wink-nudge but its theatrical flair is irresistible.