Ambition might sometimes carry a film a long way, and hopefully the film itself will take it the rest of the way. Other times, once the ambition ends, the movie is left face down, and in the case of Brick, it’s the latter. It’s basically about a guy trying to figure out why his ex-girlfriend asked him for help, because she’s recently turned up dead. It’s a mystery-solving detective film that pays homage to classic film-noir, but has the unfortunate setting of high school life, including a full cast of teenagers.
The movie in and of itself isn’t bad. The acting is decent (for teenagers), the plot isn’t anything new but not so boring that it wouldn’t work, it’s shot well, edited well, and the dialogue is great. The only problem is that it’s acted out by seventeen year olds. It doesn’t exactly sound like a huge set back, as it is a neat idea, but it fails miserably and leaves the movie absolutely stained with unintentionally laughably bad scenarios; such as a kid sporting a cape, walking with a cane (without actually needing one), and having a driver (presumably his mother) take him here and there in a van. The van has a lamp in it too, in case the dome light isn’t functional. This adult-themes life style and dialogue that is presented in a teenage environment works when it’s comical, ala Rushmore, but in Brick it’s not meant to be taken lightly. In fact, I’m unsure what the tone of the film is supposed to be, but it should have been marketed as a comedy.
It might have worked a little bit better if there was at least one child that wasn’t so keen to the fast paced manner in which people spoke in the forties, or maybe didn’t know at least one obscure phrase or figure of speech. But no, every student in this very lenient high school is like a smaller, less talented, hipster reincarnation of Humphrey Bogart. When we do see an actual adult (there are only two), they don’t appear to be bothered by anything. One, a parent, politely serves juice to her son and his friends, who are literally everywhere. The other, a vice principal, or a VP (that’s what they’re called), is almost threatened by the students, and allows them to do virtually whatever they want. As if the student and the VP are rival police officers, they fight and bicker, and make demands. Anybody under the age of eighteen may be moved by scenes like this, but everybody over the age of eighteen should see how ridiculous it is. Even the thug, who is white and looks like a D student, or a shop class enthusiast, is hip to all the intensely asinine conversations.
Something else that bothered me was how inconsistent it is. I might be simply nit-picking, but the movie sort of opens the doors to my complaint. The entire film, all the characters are so hip to knowledge, and info, and it seems to be such a valuable currency, and everybody wants something for it, but nobody has a cellular phone. If I’m to believe this is a high school in California, I’m never going to believe it if only one person has a cellular phone (which they borrowed from their mother). Instead, people still use and call payphones, and write notes that tell you to be here and this time. Even when a student is killed, and is missing for several days, there are no police interviews, no sort of investigation, nothing. The body just sits around and rots, I guess.
Another very silly problem that I had was when the main character starts having coughing fits. He doesn’t smoke, and seems fine, so they really come out of nowhere. He then begins to have a hard time walking, and seems very weak. Eventually we find out it’s because he has “swallowed a lot of blood”. Well, I’m somebody that has actually had the misfortune of swallowing a large portion of their own blood, so I know what happens. I also have been under the stress and displeasure of doing strenuous work with little to no sleep, and coughing fits and this insane weakening of the body isn’t a side effect. Especially when we’re talking about somebody who is probably seventeen years old. There are some aspects of films that I may not believe, but I don’t know any better, so it really doesn’t matter. But something like this in my mind is total common knowledge. Swallowing your own blood doesn’t cause coughing fits, nor does it make somebody have a hard time walking. I think at own point he collapses and blacks out. It’s just one of those things that is so obviously overblown, it doesn’t work within a “serious” film. It just comes off goofy and laughable.
There isn’t much else to say. It feels like a total fantasy world that I simply can’t allow myself to believe in. There is no balance to make me believe it’s feasible, and the convoluted plot doesn’t help. By the end of the movie, any questions you may or may not have are answered by a little monologue given by our lead detective that explains everything, ala Vanilla Sky, a technique I despise as it either belittles the audience, or admits to having a poorly executed story. In the end, I felt like I was watching an extended, live action episode of Rugrats, or Muppet Babies. Some people argue that it’s a great interpretation of film-noir, going so far as to create a genre: neo-noir. But what if it were 12 year olds? Would it still be a great interpretation? What if it were 8 year olds? The point is, I think believe age matters with this movie. Once you’re years older than the entire cast, it no longer remains as an ambitious project, it becomes a parody. If that was the point, then bravo, but I doubt it was. See this film if you want to laugh, but don’t see it for any other reason.