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The most harebrained ideas can also make for great art. Then again, they can also result in harebrained art. Rian Johnson's "Brick," an audacious indie that transplants a film-noir detective into the middle of high school intrigue, falls somewhere between whack and wacky.
In this dense and ambitious telling, Joseph Gordon-Levitt portrays Brendan Frye, the sort of high school kid whom Dashiell Hammett could love. When Brendan gets word that a distraught ex-girlfriend (Emilie de Ravin) is in need of help, the intrepid hero ends up in a web of crime that leads to a drug-dealing kingpin (Lukas Haas) whose mom likes to serve orange juice.
Deliberately paced and impressively weird, "Brick" is most distinguished by mega-hardboiled dialogue that is both the film's greatest innovation and most problematic aspect. While certainly clever, its rapid-fire delivery and occasionally muffled audio make it challenging to decipher.
DVD extras include a mighty self-satisfied commentary by writer-director Johnson.

"?Phil Bacharach


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