"Brick" is a Modern Masterpiece by Rian Johnson


After his breakout role in "Mysterious Skin," Joseph Gordon Levitt followed that up with another sleeper indie hit in "Brick" the debut feature of writer/director Rian Johnson. "Brick" takes the classic noir crime drama and plants it in a modern day high school.

Levitt plays Brendan a scrappy loner who finds the dead body of his old girlfriend.  We then flashback a couple of days to see all of the events that lead up to this discovery and who is ultimately responsible.  Emily played by Emile De Ravin is the girl in question, she has drifted away from Brendan and has fallen into a dangerous crowd.  Her new boyfriend Dode is a low-level sleazebag who belongs to a bigger group of shady characters.  Brendan fears for her safety and when she goes missing his search for answers leads him into the underground world of a young crime boss known only as the Pin (Lukas Haas).  With help from his only friend, The Brain, Brendan literally takes a number of beatings, mostly doled out by Tugger, to finally meet with the Pin himself.  The Pin is about 26 years old and has adopted the style of a 1970s godfather, although he operates in the basement of his oblivious mother's basement.  There are moments of ridiculous humor at the mother's expense that make the Pin a more rounded character.  Although it is best not to cross him as his calm demeanor can be a bit deceiving.

Rian Johnson has created a unique and interesting world with a language all its own.  The characters' dialogue is peppered with its own slang giving it an authentic and gritty feel.  The structure and atmosphere of the film are right of a Dashell Hammett novel if adapted for a younger crowd.  All of the regular conventions are present.  You have your innocent man, the dead girl, the kingpin, the enforcer, and of course the femme fatale.  Laura fills that role perfectly in "Brick".  She is rich, beautiful and could be the key player in finding what happened to Emily.

Driven to the point of physical and mental exhaustion Brendan's intensity and determination refuses to quit.  One by one he gathers clues and digs himself a big hole he can hopefully get out of.  When things disintegrate within the Pin's inner circle its everybody for themselves and everyone has a play.  In this chess match, someone is going down hard and Brendan must be a step ahead of everyone to get out alive.

"Mysterious Skin" A Film by Gregg Araki


This is the film that showed that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has arrived as a serious and talented dramatic actor.  A daring and explicit film that not only shed his child actor status but shows great potential for years to come.  Directed by indie auteur Gregg Araki who always has something powerful and profound to say.  Never afraid to go there.

This is the story of two young boys who were sexually abused by their little league coach and the two different life paths it has taken them down.  The years of repression and coping mechanisms is wearing them down as they get older.  First we are introduced to Brian (Brady Corbet) who as an 8 year old blacked out for a period of time and woke up with a bloody nose.  Even as he gets older he is still convinced he was abducted by aliens that night as he still get those bloody noses.  After seeing a UFO program on television he seeks out a young woman who also believes she was abducted.  Brian is an emotional wreck in a desperate search for answers.  Neil (Gordon-Levitt) on the other hand is now about 18 or so and is a hustler, hanging out at parks and playgrounds selling his services to older men.  Neil hides behind a cocky, devil may care attitude, but you know he is scarred and hurting inside.  His best friend Wendy has been at his side from the beginning and is now going off to college in New York City.  Tired of his old routine back home Neil also moves to NYC, which proves to be more that he bargained for as he tries to make money like he did back home.

Brian's search for answers brings him to a small farm and he meets with Avalyn, the woman from
TV, who has problems of her own.  This whole alien abduction fantasy that they share is just way to escape their crippling physical and emotional problems and to find other such people to confide in.  Brian's emotional pressure cooker comes to a head with his own father who he blames for not being their for him.  His mother is also in a deep state of denial about what could have happen to him.  Also at about this point Neil has a run in with a brutally violent John that breaks him down physically as well as emotionally.

Back home on Christmas Eve Brian finally meets up with Neil and the whole truth comes flooding out.  It's obviously no secret that abuse at any age is life altering and the after affects last for years if not forever, but their is still hope at the end of the long dark tunnel.  This film is brutally honest and shies away from nothing in its depiction of its ugliness and how it affects its victims.  While at times hard to watch "Mysterious Skin"is definitely a film to see.