Brick - DVD review

4 out of 5
£20

For

The thrilling mixture of grimy film noir with LA high school gloss, Gordon-Levitt’s brilliant central performance, expertly crafted dialogue with a raft of witty one-liners

Against

An overly-complicated plot, seeing the final credits roll

“The OC” meets “The Maltese Falcon” in this modern day film noir. Gordon-Levitt is Brendan, a quick-witted loner who turns gumshoe detective when his ex-girlfriend Emily (“Lost’s" de Ravin) disappears in mysterious circumstances. With the help of his only mate “The Brain” (O’Leary), and a hefty portion of bloody violence, Brendan pushes his way into the seedy underworld of a high school crime ring to discover that Emily’s disappearance is linked to a brick of heroine that has been stolen from local drug lord The Pin (Haas).

First time director Rian Johnson’s convoluted thriller, which uses the style of 1930s Dashiell Hammett whodunnit novels as its foundation, won a special jury prize for "Originality of Vision" at the last Sundance film festival.

Transferring the traditional noir blueprint to a modern day high school setting is a risky move that could have ended up in another “Bugsy Malone”-style teen comedy. However, Johnson’s cast manage to pull the experiment off by playing it straight throughout (the opposite technique to that used in last year’s similarly-themed “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”) and Gordon-Levitt’s excellent central performance is the cement that holds the whole film together.

One of the most in-depth extras packages of the year. Johnson’s detailed director’s commentary maps out his six-year struggle to get the project onto the big screen (he had to borrow money from family and friends because no producers were willing to back such an unusual project), and explains why he decided to transpose a traditional film noir plot to an LA high school setting.

His half-hour interview also sheds some light on the occasionally incomprehensible plot, and tied up a few loose ends in this slow-witted reviewer’s mind. There is also over 20 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, cut together with behind-the-scenes footage and introductions from Johnson. Also worth taking a look at are Segan and Zehetner’s audition tapes, the director’s “chicken scratch” storyboards, and a behind-the-scenes peek at Johnson’s UK press tour.

Verdict

The first 20 minutes are a bit confusing as it takes a while to get used to Johnson’s hard-boiled lingo - the press notes included a glossary of terms to try and explain what the hell’s going on. But the intentionally complicated plot (a noir staple) is actually fairly unimportant and sensible viewers will just sit back and enjoy the stylish setting and witty lines like “I got all five senses and I slept last night. That puts me six up on the lot of you". Minor criticisms would be that the cast are all clearly too old (one of them is 32!) and it is difficult to feel any emotion for the contrived characters, but “Brick” is a daring debut not to be missed.

Rating: 15
Staring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Hass, Noah Fleiss, Matt O’Leary, Emilie de Ravin, Noah Segan, Richard Roundtree, Meagan Good
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Extras: Audio commentary from director Rian Johnson, Deleted and extended scene, UK exclusive interview with Rian Johnson, Nora Zehetner and Noah Segan auditions, Rian Johnson video diary (UK exclusive), Junkyard Score: the making of the soundtrack (UK exclusive) , Costume design (UK exclusive) , Chickenscratch storyboards (UK exclusive) , The Pin's Den (music only) (UK exclusive) , Theatrical trailer