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He arrives at the drainage tunnel he first found from a clue scrawled on the missing girl's notepad. He wears his jeans and light-coloured jacket. The Pin recalls a vampire, with his dark clothes, cane, and protruding ears. Dode and the Tug look like classic thugs, one in black leather and the other, a sleeveless A-shirt.

Someone died here. Someone else almost certainly will, in the next few minutes. We don't know who.

Rian Johnson directed three memorable episodes of Breaking Bad and some big-budget Star Wars films but, when the history of motion picture gets written, he may be best remembered for Brick, an oddball film from 2005 that he penned while in film school. A bizarre odyssey, Brick blends the hard-boiled detective with the teen movie. We have a compromised hero, double-crosses, dark doings, highly stylized dialogue, and stunning cinematography. Although filmed in colour, the shadows of film noir will be immediately evident, though the director also cites the Spaghetti Westerns and Cowboy Bebop as influences on the film's distinct style. The results are surreal and surprisingly engaging.

Our hero, Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) leads an isolated existence in high school, after the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) and the "ratting out" of a former friend. Then Brendan receives a panicked, enigmatic phone call from Emily, who mentions, among other things, a "brick." Some time later, he finds her body, and his mission to locate her becomes a mission to uncover the secrets of her life, and seek revenge upon the killers. His quest entangles him with a genius called "Brain," a pair of high school femme fatales, and a local drug dealer, "The Pin," who works out of his mommy's basement. Fists and twists come fast, and the dialogue would reel and unreel Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler's heads. It's not quite a spoof-- the stylized characters and direction take themselves seriously-- but the results often prove darkly hilarious.

Filmed on 35 mm around Johnson's home town of San Clemente, with money he raised through friends and family, Brick received numerous accolades, and its cult has only grown. It's not perfect (it runs a little too long for its premise), but it's certainly memorable. Johnson since has directed box office hits with multi-million dollar budgets, including Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but nothing quite so remarkable as this strange little film.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan
Nora Zehetner as Laura
Lukas Haas as The Pin
Noah Fleiss as The Tug
Matt O'Leary as The Brain
Emilie de Ravin as Emily
Noah Segan as Dode
Richard Roundtree as Assistant V.P. Trueman
Meagan Good as Kara
Brian White as Brad Bramish
Jonathan Cauff as Biff
Reedy Gibbs as Pin's Mom