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Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Movie Review: Brick

I'm on my second cup of joe and the second chapter of the Brick DVD. I snagged it at a ridiculous $6 used yesterday, so I'm pretty happy about it.

If, like a good chunk of the public, you still haven't heard of Brick, that's probably understandable. It's to 2007 what Donnie Darko was to 2002. Released within days of Sept. 11th, 2001, about a plane part crashing into a house, it's understandable that no one saw DD until well into its DVD release. Brick's the same kind of cult following building from the critics on up.

Like Darko, it's an oddball "noire" teen film that really does define this generation pretty nicely. Darko may have been set in the '80s, but it was as current as could be. Also like Darko is the fact that it appeals well beyond its intended demographic.

The similarities don't end there. They also tragically share that element whereby you know the filmmakers are aware of how clever they are. It's not as much a factor, or as obvious, with Darko, where it's more that it seems they knew they were making an important, unique movie that made some statements about suburban life.

In Brick, it's a bit problematic moreso because of the dialogue. That's the thing, though. It's a double-edged sword. The film carries a lot of appeal because of the dialogue. It's that sharp, wry, fast-paced, high-browed private dick "noire" dialogue from the '40s and '50s, the dialogue guys like Edward G. Robinson and Bogey made famous. Staccato-fire, smart-as-a-whip retro dialogue is found throughout this movie, spoken by everyone, and few of 'em are supposed to be in their 20s.

Every now and then, you become too aware of it, and that's when it feels a little slathered on. But... but it's a solid, solid flick. If nothing else, it's brilliant because it shows the permanence of those great detective flicks of old, like Maltese Falcon. It's to those movies what Baz's Romeo and Juliet or Hawke's Hamlet are to Shakespeare. Proof positive it works in modern times. Proof that good writing is immortal and transcends trends and eras.

The acting's wicked good, with turns from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, and a bunch of other faces to watch. Levitt, the youngest kid from Third Rock From the Son, with his turn in this film and also his work in The Lookout, from '07, has carved out an early reputation of being a smart, committed actor with a great range. Me, I'm calling him as the next Johnny Depp. I think he's got a lot ahead of him if he can continue making a meal out of these juicy roles he's choosing.

That's the thing that people don't get about great acting. It's not just about the roles they turn out, it's what they choose, too. A lot of actors don't choose roles thinking "I need a conherent body of work to represent me throughout the rest of my life". They choose it because it's the best thing available, or it's what they got offered. Now and then you see actors who really execute brilliant judgment in the roles they choose. They then go on to do the best job they can, seeing their career as more than just work, but art, too. Like Johnny Depp, who started out by picking really dark and varied work to put his froo-froo days of Tiger Beat fandom as the star of 21 Jump Street long behind him, doing turns for Burton and John Waters to kick things off. This kid's doing the same. Both The Lookout and Brick are standouts from a pretty vanilla couple of years in Hollywood, methinks, and certainly movies fit to brand the young star as someone capable of charismatically being a brooding, determined, empathetic actor.

Back to my movie as I clean house with it playing. I'm waiting till about 3 or so before I take a bike ride. Too fucking cold right now. I hate it when thePunxtawney Phil's right about winter being another six weeks, but, fuck, dude, six weeks is over now, so where the hell's my spring? Eh, Phil, you fucking rodent? God. It's practically April! Let's see a double-digit temp, you RAT.