Monday, February 18, 2008

[DVD] Brick (2005)

Talk Faster! I'm Controlling My Bladder!

Winning the Special Jury Prize in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, Brick is a detective movie that is in a unique league of its own. It's terribly unconventional, yet comes with a familiar sense of having seen it somewhere before. Set in a high school, the premise is anything but, with a murder mystery done noir style but in modern settings with teenagers, throwing multiple curveballs in terms of narrative style that writer-director Rian Johnson adopted.

The first aspect of difference that hits you is that the language is totally out of this world. It takes a while to get used to it, as there's a peculiar slang that everyone uses, and it's not the usual hip words that get spewed now and then. It's done so all the time, before you finally realize that this is something of a surreal setting - the characters inhabit a world of their own that may seem like our own, but totally not so. But once you get the hang of it, you discover some consolatory joy in trying to figure out what sense do they all make, and sometimes this is revealed as part of the process our teen detective, Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes through.

Investigating the death of his ex-girlfriend Emily Kostich (Emilie de Ravin), it all started when she started to SOS him for help, before casting him away all over again. When he discovers his body, he takes it upon himself to find out the truth about the seedy world of high school crime, involving characters like Tugger (Noah Fleiss), femme fatale Laura (Nora Zehetner) and Kara (Meagan Good), The Pin (Lukas Haas) and Dode (Noah Segan), who turns out to be his ex's current squeeze.

In true noir style, we follow Brendan every step along the way as he interacts with all the characters, trying to make sense of things, while dealing with various red herrings, manipulation, violence when the time calls for it, and the dropping of little clues before a very tense and climatic ending. We slowly discover the Whos, Whats, Whys of the Whodunnit, and although limited screen time is given for Brendan's interaction with Emily, you can't help but connect to personal situations where someone who is close to your heart start to sound you out, and you try to reestablish contact, only to be brushed aside harshly. And what is a detective without an able assistance working behind the scenes to feed you information? The Brain (Matt O'Leary, gotta love all those quirky character names by now eh?) serves as Brendan's, and their chemistry as partners not by choice, turns out to be quite entertaining.

It's very difficult to imagine Brick was shot on a shoestring budget, given the high quality in production values, the unique storyline, and nice acting. It's a little movie that became a winner, so I'm recommending it, and for that ethereal haunting song that can easily become a earworm.

The Code 3 DVD by Alliance Entertainment comes in a clean anamorphic widescreen presentation, with audio in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are in English and Chinese, and scene selection is available over 20 chapters.

The Deleted and Extended Scenes come with an introduction by director Rian Johnson prior to each scene being played, which runs a total of 22:33 and comes with a "Play All" function. Consisting of 8 segments, you can get to see Nora Zehetner performing The Moon and I in full, various scenes which have their lines summarized and now put back (Pie House Rate), a scene which was reshot (You Trust Me Now?), a fantasy sequence in Heaven, some creative editing employed in A Dirty Word, and even a bed scene which was originally put into the Sundance version! (New Orleans)

The Inside Track: Casting the Roles of Laura and Dode is an inconsequential piece of extra, consisting of the auditions of both Nora Zehetner and Noah Segan with the reading of lines from specific scenes, which runs only 3:10 combined.

Finally, there's a Feature Commentary with Director Rian Johnson, Actors Noah Segan and Nora Zehetner, Producer Ram Bergman, Production Designer Jodie Tillen and Costume Designer Michele Posch. Not all at once of course, as Rian actually holds court to share plenty of behind the scenes happening starting with how the project got started, before introducing the various co-commentators one by one to recount their experience and to banter with them. Nora comes on at almost the 12 minute mark where her character comes on screen, and they share the commentary track for 7 minutes. Next was Jodie who discussed plenty of challenges (20 minutes worth) faced with designing the look and feel of the film. Michele also took about 17 minutes to discuss how they approached various small fashion houses all over the world to outfit their actresses using a very limited budget, while Noah Segan comes on at about the 1 hour 13 minute mark. Those who are curious about how this movie was made, shouldn't miss this commentary track, as every cool shot get explained, and there's also a section dedicated to the film score. Producer Ram Bergman wraps up the commentary with a talk about the creation of adequate buzz for Sundance, before the totally insane banter when the end credits rolled.

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