Every year one small, very low budget film comes out that is more interesting than all the other films that get released. This is that film.
I wish Rian Johnson was the only person on the commentary track. Not enough extras.
Brick is a classy, sparse film noir made for a song by a young, upstart director who sees that Orange County isn't just a place where girls walk around in bikinis and guys hang 10. Director Rian Johnson has hung the film on Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). A man on the outside who has lost the woman he loves to a different group of friends, and is then drawn back into the circle when the girl turns up dead. Not classically told by any means, we come to see just how in and respected Brendan is by the former group he used to associate with. In trying to solve the murder of his ex-girlfriend he is brought back into contact with socialite Laura, the bruiser Tug, the burner Dode, the elusive Kara and the Pin (played by the devilishly clever Lukas Haas).
While the story is filled with numerous twists and turns, not to mention dialogue that sounds more like Perry Mason than The O.C., Brick is the most original film to come out of "indieville" since Primer.
There are eight of these on this DVD that equal over twenty minutes of more footage. Rian Johnson introduces each one with images from the film in a behind the scenes capacity. He isn't overly verbose and these scenes aren't really any more or less minimal than the film itself. With titles like "Pie House Rat" and "You Trust Me Now?," Johnson offers up some good quality stuff that is either wholly new scenes or extended versions of the scenes we have already seen. Good stuff and I wish there was more of it.
The Inside Track: Casting the Roles
These are casting tapes with readings by Nora Zehetner (Laura) and Noah Segan (Dode). The actors are delivering their lines with not as much polish as they display in the film, yet they show us seeds of who these characters are and where they will eventually end up . It would have been nice to juxtapose these scenes shown here with the actual scenes in the film, simply to see the subtleties the characters eventually achieved.
On this track we get Rian Johnson, actors Nora Zehetner and Noah Segan, Producer Ram Bergman, Production Designer Jodie Tillen and Costume Designer Michele Posch. Truthfully, all of these other people shouldn't have been on this track. I would much rather have heard Johnson on his own commentary talking about his little movie, instead of having to listen to the musings of everyone else who will never care about the film as much as he does. When he's alone, and there isn't that much of that, John discusses his influences, shooting at his former high school in San Clemente and how shooting in Orange County was great because he "knew the town."
Anamorphic Widescreen - 1.85:1. Brick looks like a low budget movie, but all of that plays into it's swagger. Having first seen this film at the University Art Theater by my house in Orange County, I was more impressed with this film's overall tones on DVD. Yes, even on my small 13" TV screen, this movie looked better than it did in the theater.
Language: English Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitled in English, Spanish and French. This movie has a soft quality that I think works much better at home than in a movie theater. Aside from the fact that the characters are speaking in different cadences than we're used to (Johnson has almost gone the A Clockwork Orange route in regards to giving these characters their own language), this movie has an almost jazzy sensibility. It's as if it is out of it's normal time and doing everything it can to exist in it's present one.
Something tells me we are going to see this movie come out in a Special Edition sometime in the future, simply because the pre-theatrical release posters employed in for this movie were so originally cool. The cover on this DVD alludes to different aspects of the plot, but I don't like the way all the characters seem squished in on the bottom part of this cover. The back shows some iconic images from the movie, it offers a description, a Bonus Features listing, a cast list and some technical specs. My biggest complaint is that I just wish there was more about this movie (like a production booklet) to be gone through.
As someone from Orange County, I am proud to claim Rian Johnson as one of my own. While I found Brick to be confusing at times, I never got the impression that he was playing any tricks or being coy with the camera. In all honesty, there is nothing about this movie that grabbed me in a visual sense. Who knows, maybe because I am not a visually oriented person, I missed the subtlety of what Johnson was trying put across? I personally like the way that he didn't try too many slick things. In fact, I was almost reminded of what a visually stunning first film Bryan Singer made with Public Access, even though that film was almost incomprehensible.
Brick is that rare film where it's substance is it's style. It's action it's dialogue. It is piece of filmmaking by someone that I hope is given more chances in the future to show what they've got inside their head.
Brick was released March 31, 2006.