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Brendan: I can't let her go. I was set to, but I can't. I don't think I can.
The Brain: You think you can help her?
The Brain: You think you can get the straight? Maybe break some deserving teeth?
Brendan: Yeah. I think I could.
Take Film Noir, a generous dose of high school intrigue, a dash of David Lynch, and toss them all into a blender. What you get is probably going to be Brick. That, or charges for the murder of David Lynch.
A 2006 cult film directed by Rian Johnson, Brick tells the story of Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a teenage loner silently pining over his ex-girlfriend, Emily. When he gets a phone call from a panicked Emily, and finds her dead in a storm drain soon after, he goes on a one-man quest to bring her murderer(s) to justice, blowing the lid off of his high school's underworld of drugs and crimes.
Even though it takes place in the modern day, the characters in Brick all speak in an invented slang closely based off of vernacular speech in the '20s, '30s, and '40s. The high school social cliques match surprisingly well with traditional noir archetypes. Much like its inspirations (such as the noir classic, The Maltese Falcon), one of Brick's main strengths is in its hard-boiled dialogue. The film also boasts excellent cinematography and strong performances.
- Adults Are Useless: Played straight. The only adults we ever see on screen are the Vice-Principal, who depends on Brendan to tell him what's going on (see Da Chief, below) and the Pin's mom, who's either totally oblivious to her son's business or doesn't care. Laura's mom is there at the party, but we see just enough of her to make it clear that she's completely hands-off.
- Amateur Sleuth: Brendan Frye
- Anti-Hero: Brendan's shady past may qualify him for this trope.
- Basement Dweller: the Pin.
- Bond One-Liner: Brendan gets one in on Kara when he shoves her out of her dressing room in the buff.
Kara: What are you doing?
Brendan: Showing your ace.
- The Brute: Tug. Seriously, do not so much as look at him funny if you like having teeth.
- Chekhov's Gun: If you're not paying attention during the first five minutes of the movie, you miss a detail that will be extremely important later.
- The Chessmaster: Laura, as the Big Bad. Brendan is a heroic example.
- Combat Pragmatist: Brendan challenges Jerk Jock Brad Bramish to a fight. Brendan wins. This is why.
- Also how he defeats Chuck Burns (the knife guy).
- Curb Stomp Battle: There are several of these throughout the film, and a lot of different characters wind up on the receiving end. Not surprisingly, Tug perpetrates most of them, but every so often we see that Brendan can give as good as he gets.
- Da Chief: In this case, Assistant Vice Principal Trueman, played by none other than Richard Roundtree, aka... Shaft!
- The Danza: Emily Kostich is played by Emilie de Ravin
- Dawson Casting: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emilie De Ravin, Meagan Good and Nora Zehetener were all born in 1981. Brian White, who plays Brad Bramish, was thirty. Noah Fleiss who plays Tug was twenty-one. Averted with Matt O'Leary (The Brain) who was eighteen at the time.
- Dead Hand Shot: An alternate poster and used prominently in the movie.
- Deadpan Snarker: Several characters, but Brendan is the most awesome:
Brendan: There's a thesaurus in the library, yeah's under "Y." Go ahead; I'll wait.
- Determinator: Brendan. He lets Tug beat the crap out of him, infiltrates a drug ring, and involves himself in a gang war all out of his love for Emily.
- Did They or Didn't They?: The scene near the end between Brendan and Laura was shot with the footage in the film, but then continued when he took off her shirt. Then the scene faded back in with them smoking and her putting it back on and rearranging her clothes. Word of God says they did, but he edited the film to leave the doubt because they wouldn't in the land of fiction.
- Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Brendan in the Pin's kitchen, being given breakfast by the Pin's mom.
- Downer Ending
- The Dragon: Tug, again.
- Dutch Angle: Used occasionally.
- Easter Egg: On the DVD menu, find and select the tunnel on the screen. If it gets a blue outline, click select, and you can watch a student film of Rian Johnson's called, "Ninja-Ko: The Origami Master."
- Earn Your Bittersweet Ending: After getting beat to hell a couple times, getting in a half dozen fights, outsmarting another few folks high up on the food chain, and surviving the first shots of a potential gang war, Brendan finally gets to rest knowing that he punished the people that were behind Emily's murder.
- Eating Lunch Alone: Inverted, since Brendan does this by choice.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The Pin, whose mom serves corn flakes and apple juice to him and his criminal associates.
- Evil Cripple: The Pin.
- Fake American: Emilie De Ravin does a terrific American accent. So good that many thought Her Australian accent in Lost was fake.
- Femme Fatale: Laura Dannon
- Film Noir: The name of the game.
- Foregone Conclusion: Emily dies. Kind of a 'duh' statement considering the very first shot is of Emily lying facedown in a ditch.
- Foreshadowing: In the beginning, when Emily calls Brendan she already mentions a girl who told her to deal with the brick.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Tug.
- High School: In addition to taking place in a high school, Brick was filmed in San Clemente High School, which the director once attended.
- Heroic BSOD/Heroic RROD: Brendan gets one of each. The latter is ongoing, and actually pretty disturbing in the implication of just how much internal organ damage he's dealing with.
- Hollywood Healing: Averted. The constant beatings that Brendan suffers take an obvious toll as the film progresses, leading to a Heroic RROD.
- The Ingenue: Subverted with Emily. Even though she is the main character's love interest and The Lost Lenore, it is soon revealed that she left him to date a drug addict, tried to join the inner circle of a prominent drug dealer, and had sex with the aforementioned drug addict and the dealer's head enforcer. All within a span shorter than three months.
- Jerk Jock: Mostly played for laughs in the form of Brad Bramish.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dode, though his heart of gold probably has a few impurities.
- Lady in Red: Laura wears a red Qipao when Brendan meets her.
- Lampshade Hanging: Hung immediately after the entry for Not in This For Your Revolution:
VP Trueman: Fine. Very well put.
Brendan: Accelerated English, Mrs. Kasperzyk.
- Leitmotif: Particularly Laura and Em.
- Light and Mirrors Puzzle: A rare non-video game use of this trope, Brendan is locked in a Creepy Basement and uses a mirror and a small stream of light to take stock of the whole area and find the 10th brick.
- Masquerade Ball: Laura's "Halloween in January."
- Men Don't Cry: Averted hard--immediately prior to the climax of the film Brendan breaks down crying in Laura's arms.
- Nerd: Both the Brain and the Pin.
- And Brendan seems like one, but doesn't obsess over anything...except, yeah, Em.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: A couple of times, always from Tug.
- Noodle Incident: What went down between Brendan and "Jerr" before the events of the film. Word of God is that Jerr was a drug dealer who started getting friendly with Emily. Brendan didn't approve of this, so he partnered up with Jerr in a dope racket and then set him up for Trueman. Emily didn't approve of such blatant meddling in her life, and that's what lead to the fight in the flashback.
- Not in This For Your Revolution: This is essentially Brendan's reply to the VP of Discipline at his school when the man tries to win his services.
Brendan: I gave you Jerr to see him eaten, not to see you fed.
- Pay Phone: Averts the usual trope in which the protagonist walks by a mysteriously ringing phone, as Brendan answers phone calls at pay phones more often than he makes them. This appears to be idiosyncratic to him, as everyone else appears to have cell phones.
- Police Are Useless: Averted. Brendan is keeping things quiet not because he doesn't think the police can catch Emily's killer, but because he wants to find "who put her in front of the gun." Towards the end he makes it pretty clear that the cops could have easily found Tug, and he plans to use them to roust the drug ring.
- Popular Is Dumb: Played straight with Brad Bramish, averted with Laura.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Gruesomely averted.
- Riddle for the Ages: We might never find out what Laura whispered to Brendan. In a shooting script on his website, Rian Johnson reveals what Laura whispered at the end: Motherfucker, referencing the fact that Brendan and not Dode was the father of Emily's baby. This is a homage to the Dashiell Hammett short story, "The Girl with the Silver Eyes," which ends identically: "She put her mouth close to my ear so that her breath was warm again on my cheek, as it had been in the car, and whispered the vilest epithet of which the English language is capable."
- Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: A lot of the characters go to and from school, more or less at will.
- Shout-Out: Lots, and from a wide variety of sources. Lines from The Maltese Falcon are paraphrased, and the chase scene is an obvious homage to Cowboy Bebop (Brendan even looks a bit like Spike). The shot of Laura coming out of a dark corridor is a reference to Blue Velvet.
- Sidekick: The Brain.
- Smoking Is Cool: Several characters smoke, though they don't always smoke tobacco.
- Which actually becomes a central plot-point in the climax.
- The Summation: Interestingly, Brendan gives it to the mastermind. Laura, natch! Then the mastermind offers a correction...
- Sympathy for the Devil: The Pin's a pretty bad character, but it's hard not to feel a little sorry for him. This is most apparent when he reaches out to Brendan, desperately seeking a friend.
- Teens Are Monsters: And how!
- Totally Radical: Perhaps the strangest version of this in history. The characters are modern day teenagers who all speak like hardboiled characters in a Dashiel Hammett P.I. story.
- Unstoppable Rage: This, plus a Hair-Trigger Temper, makes Tug into an extremely dangerous character. Even his employer is afraid of him.
- The Vamp: Kara and Laura.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The Pin's mom is in the house only minutes before all hell broke loose; what happened to her during the climax and afterwards?
- Wham! Line:
Dode: She was gonna keep it! It was mine, and you couldn't stand that! ...I loved her. And I woulda loved that kid. I'm gonna bury you.
- Who's Your Daddy?: Between Tug, Dode, and later Brendan.
- Wild Teen Party: Inverted. While the attendants are freely smoking or drinking, they behave with decorum. This isn't because they're timid or inhibited; that's just how things go in Brick.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Why are modern teens talking like hard-boiled PIs and femmes fatales? Hey, just roll with it.
- Woman in Black: Kara wears a Stripperific black at one point and a long black robe later; not coincidentally, these are the scenes where she is most transiently manipulative. In a rather odd use of this trope, Laura is also wearing black when she sleeps with Brendan; on first viewing, this is the point when the viewer is mostly likely to find her sympathetic, but it's also immediately before she becomes responsible for the death of five people and her role in Em's death is revealed.