Brick stays afloat with stellar performances

by Beacon Staff • April 12, 2006

If the Bard can have at least a handful of his own youthful adaptations, whether he wants them or not-likely the latter, since a handful of those updates warrant at least a few tosses in the grave-why can't Dashiell Hammett?

Director Rian Johnson answers that question with the contemporary-set Brick, a sly, dexterous and dapper detective tale that serves as both homage to and a send-up of archetypal noir stories.,She's the Man, a teenage adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, is currently circulating the multiplexes. Over the past decade, nearly a dozen modernized adaptations of Shakespeare have been produced (and, shockingly, not all starred Julia Stiles).

If the Bard can have at least a handful of his own youthful adaptations, whether he wants them or not-likely the latter, since a handful of those updates warrant at least a few tosses in the grave-why can't Dashiell Hammett?

Director Rian Johnson answers that question with the contemporary-set Brick, a sly, dexterous and dapper detective tale that serves as both homage to and a send-up of archetypal noir stories.

Brick's plot is, in pure noir fashion, deceptively uncomplicated. After receiving a worrisome phone call from a missing ex-girlfriend, Emily (a whiny Emilie de Ravin), Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) begins an investigation around his present-day southern California high school for her and ends up in troubling situations. And no, this is not the type of trouble that will send him to detention.

Brendan, in an attempt to "shake things up," becomes involved in the underground drug operations of his school, which are run by The Pin (a faux-hawk donning, duck-cane-holding Lukas Haas) out of the wood-paneled basement of his parents' house. The film manages to sneak in a few allusions to The Maltese Falcon here: Lukas Haas' brass falcons (which appear on his mailbox and in his lair) often pervade the mise-en-sc