“Not much chance of comin’ out clean.”

A stoked coal of noir dropped into the oven of modern day high school, Brick is an auspicious debut from writer-director Rian Johnson (I won’t count his 1996 movie, Evil Demon Golf Ball from Hell!!!). The film gets a good deal of mileage out of the juxtaposition of jaded noirism and high school innocence. In one scene, anti-hero and villain size each other up across a kitchen table while the villain’s clueless mother patters obliviously about apple juice.

Continue reading about Brick (contains information about the basic premises of the plot)…But Brick is best when it takes itself seriously. Brendan Frye (Joesph Gordon-Levitt), a small time dealer who flipped his partner and ‘got out clean,’ finds himself pulled back ‘into the game’ when his blonde ex-g.f. turns up dead in a drain pipe. For answers, he starts rummaging in a grab bag of high school archetypes, the usual cliches of jock, drama queen, brainiac — but hard boiled. The actual plot is a rather banal tale of a drug deal gone sour, but, the staccato, eliptical dialogue lulls you into thinking it’s Pinter.

Or David Mamet. Despite some some entrancing visuals, Brick‘s twinkle is the words the characters speak, an efficient argot of monosyllables with some rather arbitrary metaphors. Bulls = cops. Heel = walk away. Duck soup = easy pickings. A competitive score makes the dialogue difficult to hear at first, but by the end of the movie you can parse it like a pro.

Shot indie and purchased by Focus Features at Sundance (they were repped by the ubiquitous Cinetic), Brick was a long time coming. Johnson has said in interviews that the script was written in 1997, shortly after he graduated from film school. Despite some name talent, I’m betting the budget was shoestring. The NYTimes reports a 20 day shoot and that it was edited on a Mac (presumably with Final Cut Pro). As I dig up more about how this movie came to be the indie success story it is, I’ll post it below.

RELATED: CHUD’s interview with Rian Johnson.

UPDATE: In his interview on Elvis Mitchell’s The Treatment, Rian has said the movie was shot on 35mm for under $500,000. He has a large extended family, many of whom invested in the film. Elvis is keen to ascertain his influences, guessing correctly with Sergio Leone, but striking out on Blake Edwards.