Joseph Gordon-Levitt Is a Teenage Bogart at Noir High in 'Brick'
A contemporary high school drama in which every other word isn't "dude" or "awesome": what kind of movie is that?
"Brick," a flashy cinematic stunt perpetrated by Rian Johnson, dispenses with the adolescent gibberish of the here and now to graft the hard-boiled argot of Dashiell Hammett onto an upscale Southern California high school: the milieu of "Beverly Hills 90210" and "The O.C." goes noir.
In a twisty plot that proudly borrows elements from "The Maltese Falcon," "Red Harvest" and other Hammett yarns, Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a teenage Bogart-as-Sam Spade minus the trench coat and fedora, digs into a roiling adolescent underworld of murder and drug dealing. It's all so seamy, sordid, lurid and shocking! And dull, despite a noirish gloss of wide-angle cinematography and a jaundiced, smoggy color scheme.
If nothing else, the concept of a high school film noir is a shrewd attention-getting move for a first-time filmmaker like Mr. Johnson. "Brick" was duly awarded the Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision in 2005. Its raw ambition certainly puts it near the head of its class in contemporary teenage dramas. But what does that mean in a genre dominated by C students and worse? The word "class" is a misnomer, since there's not a classroom in sight in "Brick." The main action takes place outside in the high school parking lot.
"Brick" is even less dramatically convincing than Alan Parker's 1976 gangster spoof, "Bugsy Malone," which cast children as hoods and featured the 13-year-old Jodie Foster vamping it up like Rita Hayworth in "Gilda." ("Brick" has nothing half as spicy.) Even a guilty pleasure like "Cruel Intentions," which took "Dangerous Liaisons" to high school, landed some uncomfortable emotional punches because it was acted rather than pantomimed.
―The New York Times