“Brick” is the story of a jaded investigator attempting to unravel a mystery involving shady characters from both the upper-crust and the criminal underbelly. This is a story of murder. A story of steely, tough men and seductive,calculating women. And everyone is still in highschool. Only two adults get minimal screen time.
There are many noirish elements in this film. There are shadows here and there and characters moving in and out of the darkness. The scenes by the dark tunnel are well done. The dialog is very smart. You even get to hear an old-fashioned telephone ringing. With a real bell and everything.
These High School kids have the attitudes and mannerisms of world-worn adults twice or three times their age. The film is played very straight. Occassionally, the gap between the style it is invoking and the setting is so wide that we can see the playfulness underneath it all. But the filmmaker also runs the risk of the audience alternately becoming absorbed in the story and being pulled out of it by that gap between the story and its setting.
Since the story is played straight, the fourth wall remains fairly intact; there are very few moments that seem to intentionally break the facade. There are two brief scenes where one character’s mother shows up and her motherly presence offers a bit of a “wink” at the camera. The closest thing to parody is a scene between Brandon, the main character, and the principal of the high school, which plays a lot like a scene between Humphrey Bogart and a government official. Brandon is tough as nails, and both he and the principal play off each other, each taking their turn at disclosing and witholding information in order to gain the upper hand.
Brick is pretty engaging and fun, but it is hard to be too engaged in the unfolding of its complex plot at the same time that you are having fun with irony of the whole setup. After all, shouldn’t these kids actually be in school, learning things?