Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Death, deception and devotion that’s hazardous to one’s health are film-noir staples. Grafting such ideas — and a screwy slang in which context clues feel like life preservers — into a high-school setting sounds like the Max Fischer Players’ latest earnest stage failure.
But think of your early high-school days, grasping a slippery new language. Socially and emotionally, what were they if not riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas? Had a varsity student thrown a scrap of attention your way, would you not take the bait (especially if it were Meagan Good, winging her legs around in a titillating Cabaret getup)? And what of blinding love that feels bound to last forever when it won’t see 16?
Writer-director Rian Johnson’s 2005 Brick understood the pain of “shaking and blowing” on a relationship with a gravitational pull that’s too strong too soon. Noir fit Brick like a glove, stylishly injecting assured tough talk, vice-grip tension, black humor, striking sound design and gunshots sounding like locker doors slammed on options.
Selling the hustle exerted and hammering endured by a teen shamus, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Brendan, investigating the death of his lost love, Emily (Emilie de Ravin).
With few exceptions, Johnson never overplayed the homage or strayed into parody — instead extending empathy even to galoots on the fringes. The first time you “lose” something that was never yours to start with always stings. Like all great detective stories — and high-school flashbacks for some — to rewatch Brick is to get rattled right ’round all over again.