Brick (film)

Infobox Film
name = Brick

caption = Theatrical Poster
director = Rian Johnson
producer = Ram Bergman
Mark G. Mathis
co-producer = Susan Dynner
writer = Rian Johnson
starring = Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Emilie de Ravin
Nora Zehetner
Matt O'Leary
Lukas Haas
Meagan Good
Noah Fleiss
Noah Segan
Brian J. White
music = Nathan Johnson
cinematography = Steve Yedlin
editing = Rian Johnson
distributor = Focus Features
released = March 31 2006 (U.S.A.)
runtime = 110 minutes
country = United States
language = English
budget = $450,000
website =
amg_id = 1:318891
imdb_id = 0393109

"Brick" is a 2006 American film written and directed by Rian Johnson.

The film's narrative centers on a hardboiled detective story that takes place in suburbia. Most of the main characters are high school students. It was Johnson's directorial debut and won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. "Brick" was distributed by Focus Features, opening in the United States on March 31, 2006, in New York and Los Angeles. The film draws heavily in plot, characterization, and dialogue from hardboiled classics, especially from Dashiell Hammett. The title refers a block of heroin, compressed roughly to the size and shape of a brick.


Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a student of an unnamed high school in California, stares silently at the body of ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) lying in a storm drain. Days earlier Brendan, in the know of the intricacies of the "upper crust" of drug-addicted socialites but choosing to live outside them, receives a terrified phone call from Emily who tearfully tells him that she "didn't know that the brick was bad" and that "the Pin's on it now," imploring him to help her. Brendan manages to find her, only to face her plea for him to leave her alone.

After her death, Brendan takes it upon himself to avenge her, enlisting the aid of fellow loner The Brain (Matt O'Leary) to track information, while feigning to be an inside man for his assistant vice-principal (Richard Roundtree). His intrusion into the tightly knit circle of high school cliques brings him into the lives of several people, including sophisticated Laura (Nora Zehetner), prolifically violent Tug (Noah Fleiss), stoner Dode (Noah Segan), seductive play actress Kara (Meagan Good), jock Brad (Brian J. White), and drug baron The Pin (as in kingpin) (Lukas Haas). All are pivotal in his pursuit of Emily's fate.


Origins of "Brick" came from Rian Johnson's passion for the writing of Dashiell Hammett, an author known for hardboiled detective novels, and a desire to make a straightforward American detective story.cite news | last = Grady | first = Pam | coauthors = | title = Bringing Noir to Nixonland | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = FilmStew | date = August 4, 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2008-02-20 ] He had discovered Hammett's work through an interview with the Coen brothers when their gangster film, "Miller's Crossing" was released in 1990 (who, in turn, used the Hammett novel "The Glass Key" as the main influence for their own film).cite news | last = Tobias | first = Scott | coauthors = | title = Rian Johnson | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = The Onion A.V. Club | date = April 19, 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2008-02-20 ] He read "Red Harvest" and then moved on to "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Glass Key". Johnson had grown up watching detective films and film noirs. Reading Hammett's novels inspired him to make a film that created the same kind of world. He realized that this would result in a mere imitation and came up with high school as the setting to keep things fresh. He said, "Once I started actually writing [the script] , it was really amazing how all the archetypes from that detective world slid perfectly over the high school types". He also wanted to disrupt the visual preconceptions that came from the film noir genre but once he started making "Brick", he found it "very much about the experience of being a teenager to me".

Johnson wrote the first draft of "Brick" in 1997 after graduating from USC School of Cinematic Arts a year earlier. He spent the next seven years pitching his script but none of the Hollywood studios or production companies were interested because the material was too unusual to make with a first-time director. Johnson figured out the smallest amount of money he could make the film for and asked friends and family for money. After acquiring about $475,000 for the film's budget, "Brick" finally began production in 2003.

The film was shot in 20 days but Johnson spent a great deal of time beforehand rehearsing with the actors and refining the script. He had seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a film called "Manic", met with him and knew that he wanted the young actor to be in his film. He encouraged the cast to read Hammett but not to watch any film noirs because he did not want them influencing their performances. Instead, he had them watch Billy Wilder comedies like "The Apartment" and other comedies like "His Girl Friday". He was initially nervous working with a professional cast and crew for the first time but as soon as he started filming, this feeling went away and he had a good experience.

Johnson shot the film in his hometown of San Clemente, California on 35 mm film stock. Much of the film takes place at San Clemente High School, the high school he attended. He also enlisted current students to work on the film, shooting on weekends so as not to disrupt classes. He also had difficulty finding a run-down house for the Pin's base of operations. The production found an appropriate house but only had a week before it was destroyed for a more upscale house. Johnson also had difficulty finding a mansion for the party scene until, with one day left to find the location, a former Telecom executive allowed them to shoot in his place which was still under construction.

Johnson cited Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westernscite news | last = | first = | coauthors = | title = "Brick" Production Notes | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = Focus Features | date = 2006 | url = | accessdate = ] and "Cowboy Bebop" as influences on his visualization of the movie. [cite web
url =
title = The Visuals of Brick
author = Rian Johnson
work = Rian's BRICK forum
date = 2006-04-19
accessdate = 2007-03-09
] He used shoes as a design element for his characters and saw them as an "instant snapshot of the essence" of the characters.cite news | last = | first = | coauthors = | title = Seattlest Interview: Rian Johnson | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = Seattlest | date = April 11, 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2008-02-20 ] He has also stated that many of the film's visual cues were taken from "Chinatown" with its wide-open flat spaces.

pecial effects

The majority of the film's special effects were cheaply and efficiently produced using practical and in-camera effects.cite news | last = Johnson | first = Rian | coauthors = | title = "Brick" DVD Commentary track | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = Focus Features | date = 2006 | url = | accessdate = ] Early in the film, for example, Emilie de Ravin walks toward the camera out of a tunnel as a garbage bag floats downstream and engulfs the camera, transitioning over to Joseph Gordon-Levitt back in his character's bedroom. To achieve this, the desired effect was filmed in reverse order. The garbage bag began over the camera and was pulled away during filming, as de Ravin walked backwards into the tunnel. This footage was then cut to a scene in which a garbage bag was simply pulled over Gordon-Levitt's head.

Slowly filming a car driving in reverse, then playing the footage backwards at a higher speed gives the illusion of a car quickly approaching as the camera darts in front of it stylishly. Clever fades give the impression of time changes while quick jump cuts add tension to a scene in which the protagonist wakes up after passing out. Certain edits were also introduced to the film to time footage to different dialogue, adding certain information and leaving other information out completely. These edits are noticeable, as the actors' mouths are not always moving in sync with their dialogue. One particular scene, in which de Ravin's character floated toward the camera, used a green screen, but it was edited out of the film far before its completion.

core and soundtrack

The score to "Brick" was composed by Rian Johnson's cousin, Nathan Johnson, with additional support and music from The Cinematic Underground. The score harkens back to the style, feel and overall texture of noir films. It features traditional instruments such as the piano, trumpet and violin, and also contains unique and invented instruments such as the wine-o-phone, metallophone, tack pianos, filing cabinets, and kitchen utensils, all recorded with one microphone on an Apple PowerBook.

Since Nathan Johnson was in England during most of the production process, the score was composed almost entirely over Apple iChat, with Rian Johnson playing clips of the movie to Nathan Johnson, who would then score them. The two later met in New York to mix the soundtrack.

The soundtrack CD of the movie was released on March 12, 2006 by Lakeshore Records. In addition to Johnson's score, it contains songs by The Velvet Underground, Anton Karas and Kay Armen as well as the big band version of "Frankie and Johnny" performed by Bunny Berigan and a full unedited performance of "" by Nora Zehetner.


"Brick" premiered in the United States on March 31, 2006 in two theaters. It opened to United Kingdom audiences on May 12, 2006 on a limited number of screens. The film grossed USD $2.07 million in North America and a total of $3.9 million worldwide.cite news | last = | first = | coauthors = | title = "Brick" | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = Box Office Mojo | date = | url = | accessdate = 2008-02-20 ]

"Brick" was released to mostly positive reviews. It currently has a 78% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and ranked #35 on "Entertainment Weekly's" list of the "50 Best High School Movies". [cite web
url =,6115,1532588_1_0_,00.html
title = The 50 Best High School Movies
work = Entertainment Weekly
date = 2006-09-07
accessdate = 2007-03-09
] Based on 34 reviews, Metacritic gave it an average score of 72 out of 100 ("Generally positive reviews").cite web|url=|title="Brick" (2006): Reviews|work=Metacritic|accessdate=2008-04-02]


The Region 1 DVD release of "Brick" originally became available on August 8, 2006 as part of the Focus Features Spotlight Series. Special features include: selection of deleted and extended scenes with introductions by director Rian Johnson; audition footage featuring Nora Zehetner and Noah Segan; and feature audio commentary with Rian Johnson, Nora Zehetner, Noah Segen, producer Ram Bergman, production designer Jodie Tillen, and costume designer Michele Posch.

The Region 2 DVD was released on September 18, 2006.



External links

* [ Official site]
*imdb title|id=0393109|title=Brick
*amg movie|id=1:318891|title=Brick
*mojo title|id=brick|title=Brick
* [ Brick Forum] run by director Rian Johnson
* [ Theatrical trailer] at Focus Features
* [ Short flash clips]
* [ Photos from the film set]
* [ Review written in the language of the film]
* [ In-depth analysis of "Brick"] at Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir
* [ "Brick"] Review from JoBlo
* [ Another review]

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