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So here’s another oldie but a goodie that I stumbled across in 2013. It’s back on my radar now because Rian Johnson, who directed this film, is also directing Episode VIII in the new Star Wars trilogy (he’s also the same guy who directed Looper) I’d almost completely forgotten about this movie until I came across the director’s name in a friend’s Facebook status. I had a weird déjà vu feeling when I read it, and couldn’t decide if it was because I already knew he was directing Episode VIII or because I’d seen his name attached to something else. A quick perusal of my DVD collection confirmed the latter.

The biggest name attached tot his film besides Johnson himself is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays lone wolf Brendan Frye. It’s one of several early films JGL did when he moved away from his 3rd Rock from the Sun sitcom days and into more serious roles. The movie is an eclectic mix of genres, pairing a hardboiled detective film noir with a high school setting. According to the always-reliable Internet, it’s got something of a cult classic status going for it, which, true or not, wouldn’t surprise me.

The movie kicks off with the murder of the Brendan’s ex-girlfriend, and it’s pretty much all downhill from there. He sets out to solve the case and find a missing brick of heroin (from which the movie derives its name). The catch is that he’s got a limited amount of time in which to accomplish this, adding an element of urgency to the narrative. The stakes are high, but it doesn’t come off as over the top. Obviously, some suspension of disbelief is in order when you’re talking about heroin, high schoolers, and murder— but less than you might think. As an aside, I can guarantee if there’d been this kind of double-dealing and drama at my high school back in the day I would’ve had perfect attendance.

I’m pretty mad at myself for forgetting this film, because it’s an enjoyable watch and really stands out among the lather-rinse-repeat superhero movie cycle we’ve got going. On general principle, I detest films about high schoolers (Mean Girls is an exception, of course. My inner 8th grader will ALWAYS love Mean Girls). They’re usually terrible films loaded with romantic clichés that feel like sandpaper rubbing against my psyche. Brick is not one of those films. Its well shot, and the storyline is just the right mix of foreign and familiar. To be honest, high school is totally dramatic enough to warrant a film noir approach, and after watching Brick I think you’ll agree with me when I say we could use more teen-centered movies like this one.