The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Brick

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

Rated R

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.

Note: Film Yapper Lauren Whalen will be conducting a lecture on “Brick” at midnight Saturday, March 13, at Facets Cinémathèque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave., in Chicago as part of the Facets Night School cult film series. For more information, or to get tickets, click here.

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8 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Brick”

  1. […] Supremacy / The Bourne Ultimatum Bowling for Columbine / Fahrenheit 9/11 / Sicko Boy A Breach Brick Bridget Jones’s Diary Brokeback Mountain Brothers The Brothers Bloom Cache Capote Capturing the […]

  2. […] teenagers is incredibly refreshing. Their lingo is so dense and fun to listen to. It works like “Brick” where specific words go over the head, but always makes sense within context. Plus the gang […]

  3. […] Things I Hate About You” / “Brick” (Joseph […]

  4. […] gorgeous and can play sympathetic, sarcastic and cold, all with ease. Heck, her performance in “Brick” alone should have guaranteed at least one meaty role. Alas, Good’s most often relegated to […]

  5. […] directors even move from film to television. Rian Johnson (“Brick” and “The Brothers Bloom”) directed episodes of “Breaking Bad” and […]

  6. […] Bloom” used the art of the con as a path to social awakening and pure sibling affection. Like “Brick,” its dialogue carried the cadence of a noirish nursery rhyme, but it played like “Dirty Rotten […]

  7. Thanks for the shout-out, Nick!

    I remember seeing this film for the first time, when I was mired in the throes of law-school stress. I was questioning my own identity and my worldview at the time was quite dark. "Brick" grabbed me, held on, and has yet to let go (though I’m much happier now).

    It’s not perfect, but boy, is it amazing. And I’m so excited to share this with people!