Take film noir, a generous dose of high school intrigue, a dash of David Lynch, and toss them all into a blender. What you get is probably going to be Brick. That, or charges for the murder of David Lynch.A 2006 cult film directed/written by Rian Johnson, Brick tells the story of Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a teenage loner silently pining over his ex-girlfriend, Emily. When he gets a phone call from a panicked Emily, and finds her dead in a storm drain soon after, he goes on a one-man quest to bring her murderer(s) to justice, blowing the lid off of his high school's underworld of drugs and crimes.Even though it takes place in the modern day, the characters in Brick all speak in an invented slang closely based off of vernacular speech in the '20s, '30s, and '40s. The high school social cliques match surprisingly well with traditional noir archetypes. Much like its inspirations (such as the noir classic, The Maltese Falcon), one of Brick's main strengths is in its hard-boiled dialogue. The film also boasts excellent cinematography and strong performances.
This film provides examples of:
Adults Are Useless: Played straight. The only adults we ever see on screen are the Vice-Principal, who depends on Brendan to tell him what's going on (see Da Chief, below) and the Pin's mom, who's either totally oblivious to her son's business or doesn't care. Laura's mom is there at the party, but we see just enough of her to make it clear that she's completely hands-off.
Affably Evil: The Pin and arguably Tug, assuming he's not beating the crap out of you at that moment
Anti-Hero: Brendan's shady past may qualify him for this trope.
Shady past aside, his actions at the end of the movie regarding the Pin catapult him into this territory. He also only gets involved with anything because of Emily; see his entry under Not In This For Your Revolution for just how anti-heroic he can get.
Chekhov's Gun: If you're not paying attention during the first five minutes of the movie, you miss a detail that will be extremely important later namely, the blue arrow on the cigarette thrown from the car.
Curb-Stomp Battle: There are several of these throughout the film, and a lot of different characters wind up on the receiving end. Not surprisingly, Tug perpetrates most of them, but every so often we see that Brendan can give as good as he gets.
Da Chief: In this case, Assistant Vice Principal Trueman, played by none other than Richard Roundtree, aka... Shaft!
The Danza: Emily Kostich is played by Emilie de Ravin
Dawson Casting: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emilie De Ravin, Meagan Good and Nora Zehetener were all born in 1981. Brian White, who plays Brad Bramish, was thirty. Noah Fleiss who plays Tug was twenty-one. Averted with Matt O'Leary (The Brain) who was eighteen at the time.
Dead Hand Shot: An alternate poster and used prominently in the movie.
Determinator: Brendan. He lets Tug beat the crap out of him, infiltrates a drug ring, and involves himself in a gang war all out of his love for Emily.
Did They or Didn't They?: The scene near the end between Brendan and Laura was shot with the footage in the film, but then continued when he took off her shirt. Then the scene faded back in with them smoking and her putting it back on and rearranging her clothes. Word Of God says they did, but he edited the film to leave the doubt because they wouldn't in the land of fiction.
Easter Egg: On the DVD Bonus menu, find and select the tunnel on the screen. If it gets a blue outline, click select, and you can watch a student film of Rian Johnson's called, "Ninja-Ko: The Origami Master."
Earn Your Bittersweet Ending: After getting beat to hell a couple times, getting in a half dozen fights, outsmarting another few folks high up on the food chain, and surviving the first shots of a potential gang war, Brendan finally gets to rest knowing that he punished the people that were behind Emily's murder.
The Ingenue: Subverted with Emily. Even though she is the main character's love interest and The Lost Lenore, it is soon revealed that she left him to date a drug addict, tried to join the inner circle of a prominent drug dealer, and had sex with the aforementioned drug addict and the dealer's head enforcer. All within a span shorter than three months.
Light and Mirrors Puzzle: A rare non-video game use of this trope, Brendan is locked in a Creepy Basement and uses a mirror and a small stream of light to take stock of the whole area and find the 10th brick.
MacGuffin Title: The "brick" of the title is a heroin brick, the theft of which sets off the film's entire plot.
Noodle Incident: What went down between Brendan and "Jerr" before the events of the film. Word Of God is that Jerr was a drug dealer who started getting friendly with Emily. Brendan didn't approve of this, so he partnered up with Jerr in a dope racket and then set him up for Trueman. Emily didn't approve of such blatant meddling in her life, and that's what lead to the fight in the flashback.
Pay Phone: Averts the usual trope in which the protagonist walks by a mysteriously ringing phone, as Brendan answers phone calls at pay phones more often than he makes them. This appears to be idiosyncratic to him, as everyone else appears to have cell phones.
Police Are Useless: Averted. Brendan is keeping things quiet not because he doesn't think the police can catch Emily's killer, but because he wants to find "who put her in front of the gun." Towards the end he makes it pretty clear that the cops could have easily found Tug, and he plans to use them to roust the drug ring.
Riddle for the Ages: We might never find out what Laura whispered to Brendan. In a shooting script on his website, Rian Johnson reveals what Laura whispered at the end: Motherfucker, referencing the fact that Brendan and not Dode was the father of Emily's baby. This is a homage to the Dashiell Hammett short story, "The Girl with the Silver Eyes," which ends identically: "She put her mouth close to my ear so that her breath was warm again on my cheek, as it had been in the car, and whispered the vilest epithet of which the English language is capable."
Shout Out: Lots, and from a wide variety of sources. Lines from The Maltese Falcon are paraphrased, and the chase scene is an obvious homage to Cowboy Bebop (Brendan even looks a bit like Spike). The shot of Laura coming out of a dark corridor is a reference to Blue Velvet.
Woman in Black: Kara wears a Stripperific black at one point and a long black robe later; not coincidentally, these are the scenes where she is most transiently manipulative. In a rather odd use of this trope, Laura is also wearing black when she sleeps with Brendan; on first viewing, this is the point when the viewer is mostly likely to find her sympathetic, but it's also immediately before she becomes responsible for the death of five people and her role in Em's death is revealed.