Movie-Hype (#701) – BRICK
“Throw one at me if you want, hash head. I got all my senses and I slept last night, so that puts me six up on the lot of you.” -Brendan
Chances are you’ve heard of Film Noir. Chances are you don’t really know what it means. How to describe a genre that beats to its own rhythm; and bleeds to it too? It ain’t Action, friend, though there’s usually plenty of it. It ain’t Suspense, either, although you might find yourself in a white-knuckled moment, biting the couch throw pillow, afraid to look out the window.
It’s like this, Daddy-O, so wise up and take the 3.5% tip. There’s a guy. He might be a bad guy, trying to do right by the world now, living that straight and narrow, but you just know he can’t hang. He might actually even be a good guy, before it all starts.
There’s a dame. There’s always a dame. She comes into his life. She’s in trouble. Daddy-O? She is trouble. Dames, you know? She’s got a story, long as a shiny red ribbon (or is that a Mobius strip?), and more full of holes than an overcrowded brothel. She needs his help, you see. He’s the only one who can help, you see. They even got a name for her.
The Femme Fatale.
Like I said, Daddy-O. Trouble.
Laura: Do you trust me now?
Brendan: Less than when I didn't trust you before.
Film Noir follows more rules than any other genre. Kinda ironic, since the movies are about people who don’t really follow any. The films are dark, with lotsa shadows, lotsa smoke, lotsa Sex. Oh yeah, if there ain’t sex, it ain’t Noir. Now, I’m not saying every scene climaxes with the dance of the beast with two backs, Daddy-O, although if you play your cards right, there’s usually an eyeful (or a mouthful) of that. The Sex I’m talkin’ about comes with a capital S. It pours out of everyone’s pores like sweat. It oozes across the screen, caresses. Take my advice on the DL: the Sex in Film Noir, it’s not just a part of the movie. It’s a character. Hell, Daddy-O, it may even be the Big Bad.Enter BRICK. What makes it great is that it follows all the rules. The Loner, trying to shed his ill-gotten ways. The dame, in trouble. A frantic and cryptic phone call. Can he help? Another dame, poured into her blood-red dress, like a tall midnight Manhattan (definitely stirred. As for shaken, only the night will tell). Shady characters abound. People who know things. People who don’t. People who lie ‘cause they’re scared. People who lie ‘cause there’s profit in it. People who lie just for the pure unadulterated fun. ‘Cause it’s all fun and games ‘til someone gets hurt.
And someone always gets hurt, Daddy-O. If there ain’t a murder, it ain’t Noir. You picking up what I’m putting down?
What sets BRICK apart is that it takes the Noire genre, plays by all the rules—bad guy trying to go straight, dame in trouble, REALLY bad guy pulling all the strings, slang so intense it’s almost a language—and puts it directly in a place you know. You may not have cut your bones on the Mean Streets of the Big City, but five’ll get you ten says you went to high school. And that’s where BRICK’S at, cat.
You gonna tell me high school wasn’t plenty dangerous in its own way? Of course it was. You remember the cliques, so goddamn important they ruled the world. You remember the factions, US vs. Them. You remember how they shifted. Maybe it was Bros before Hos. Maybe it was Jocks before Jerks. Maybe it was the Cool before the Class. Always it was Kids before Adults. They might as well been speaking that Charley Brown language, Daddy-O. We didn’t understand them. And they didn’t even try to understand us.
BRICK gives us Brendan, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. You might remember him from 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU or even THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN. (I’m here to tell you he’s the Real Deal and WILL have an Oscar nomination within five years. He’s that good, but for another time, perhaps.)
Brendan don’t really fit in the school scene, you know what I mean? He eats lunch alone. It don’t get clearer than that. A phone call pops Brendan out of his reverie. It’s Emily, a former flame. She’s in trouble, won’t say why. Something about a “missing brick,” whatever that means. Brendan puts himself up against the school elite trying to find out.
Brad Bramish (the football god): Hey! What are you doing here?
Brendan: Just listening.
[long pause while Brad stares at him]
Brendan: All right, you got me. I'm a scout for the Gophers. Been watching your game for a month, but that story right there just clenched it. You got heart kid. How soon can you be in Minneapolis?
Brendan: Cold winters, but they got a great transit system.
Brad: Oh, yeah?
Brendan: There's a thesaurus in the library. Yeah is under "Y". Go ahead, I'll wait.
As you might imagine, this “looking into it” can be hazardous to your health. Brendan meets Laura, who leads him into the world. (Laura is purr-fectly played by Nora Zehetner. I said last August she was meant for great things, and I believe I’m already correct, as our girl in now on the show Heroes.)
Laura leads Brendan into that sophisticated world. That upper echelon of high school, the dare I say it: too cool for school crowd. Witty banter is exchanged. A few pops to the nose. (All right, more than a few. Brendan gets beat on like a red-headed stepchild WHO ALSO stole something. Top that.) All roads eventually lead to the Pin, the biggest, the baddest, though don’t nobody know the cat to look at him, a kid who never goes to class but sits on the ground against a wall and seems to know everything.
Brendan: Emily said words I didn't know. Tell me if they catch. Brick?
The Brain: No.
The Brain: Tug? Tug might be a drink, like milk and vodka, or something.
The Brain: Pin. The Pin?
Brendan: The Pin, yeah?
The Brain: The Pin is kinda a local spook story, yeah know the King Pin.
Brendan: Yeah, I've heard it.
The Brain: Same thing, he's supposed to be old, like 26. Lives in town.
Brendan: Dope runner, right?
The Brain: Big time. See the Pin pipes it from the lowest scraper for Brad Bramish to sell, maybe. Ask any dope rat where their junk sprang and they'll say they scraped it from that, who scored it from this, who bought it off so, and after four or five connections the list always ends with The Pin. But I bet you, if you got every rat in town together and said "Show your hands" if any of them've actually seen The Pin, you'd get a crowd of full pockets.
Brendan: You think The Pin's just a tale to take whatever heat?
The Brain: Hmm... So what's first?
Brendan: Show of hands.
Sounds like a high school Keyser Soze. Now that’s a scary thought. But eventually all roads do lead to The Pin, and if it ain’t that little kid from WITNESS, all grown up and scaring people himself now. (Kelly McGillis must be so proud.)
So I’ve told you what I can. At this point you’re in, chomping at the bit, or you’re out. Maybe this review sounds stupid, doesn’t fit with your flavor. Blame me, a poor man’s (very poor man’s) attempt to give you a taste of the rhythm that’s gonna get you in Noir.
But if you’ve been to high school you know the world already. If you’re up for something with a bit more pounce to the ounce than the latest Brain Dead New Release, you might want to give BRICK a look-over. This ain’t movies for children, friend. You gotta pay attention, and know what’s what with what to have even the chance of a clue. You don’t have to be cool, but you gotta recognize cool when you see it.
But I know that’s you. That’s why you’re here. Go rent BRICK, and see what all the fuss is about. But watch out for The Pin. And don’t trust any dame, not matter how good she looks.
But you knew that already, didn’t ya Daddy-O?