When I lived in Prescott, I was spoiled by a big-city-quality film buff video store, Show Business Video, upon which I cannot heap enough praise. It was an avenue of exploration for off-beat, independent, foreign and art-house movies that wouldn't even hit the shelves at Blockbuster. Plus, there was a definite feeling of community. Walking into the tiny, hole-in-the-wall shop gave you the sense that you belonged to an elite club. Of all the things I miss about living in Prescott, and there are many, "Randy's" is easily in the top 5.
There may or may not be a place like that here in Flag. I kinda doubt it, but I have not expended the time or energy to find out. Instead, I went the lazy man's route.
It's sooo easy, and so very addictive. With it's click-of-the-mouse browsing and inscrutable and labrynthine "recommendations" programming, I have built up a movie queue which will take me approximately the rest of my life to slog through. Maybe longer. Do they have Netflix in the afterlife?
Recently, I was forced to endure a cold-turkey period of a couple weeks; exiled due to a maxed-out credit card. As it happens, the first movie I saw post-ex-communication turned out to be worth the wait.
"Brick" is a rare cross-pollination which actually does justice to both of its genre parents. It's both the best high school movie I've seen since "Heathers" and the best exercise in neo-noir since . . . Hell, I don't know. "Memento," I guess. Like "Veronica Mars" meets Sam Spade, only much deeper and richer than that facile pitch makes it sound. This infernal mash-up could easily have been played for laughs, but "Brick" is totally straight.
The dialogue is priceless. Contemporary teen slang, hard-boiled 40's style. At first this is a bit disorienting, but it works much like "A Clockwork Orange." At first you don't understand what the hell anyone is saying, but once you catch on to the context, you have completely bought into the stylistic world the movie has created. This also leads to exchanges worthy of Bogart, like in the scene where the hero, Brandon (played with fitting intensity by Joseph Gordon-Levitt,) is pumped for information by the school's vice-principal:
VP: You've helped out this office before.
Brandon: No, I gave you Jerr to see him eaten, not to see you fed.
Some interesting chords are struck with "The Pin," the local drug lord, who is actually a "really old, like 26" goth geek who lives in his Mom's basement. This scenario is a source of comedy, as the mother (the only parental character in the entire movie) wanders into a tense scene prattling about the superiority of "country-style" orange juice. In another scene, though, "The Pin" wistfully evokes Tolkien, giving the character an unexpected human dimension.
So, tight plot: Following an alarming and cryptic phone call, Brandon explores the downward spiral of his ex-girlfriend, Emily who soon becomes his ex-ex-girlfriend when she turns up dead. Obsessively, doggedly pursuing the truth, despite having the crap kicked out of him half a dozen times, Brandon eventually finds out who killed Emily. Then, in a particularly noir-ish twist, he keeps going, not resting until he finds out why and how and who's behind the killer, as if the unraveling has become his sole purpose in living.
Solid acting all the way around: Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks like the kind of kid who would get all kinds of wedgies in gym class, but plays the lead with all the intensity of Fred MacMurray in "Double Indemnity." Likewise, Nora Zehetner channels Barbara Stanwyck as the requisite femme fatale. Lukas Haas gives "The Pin" all kinds of weird edges and Emile de Ravin (Claire on "Lost") is very convincing as the "lost little girl." The supporting cast is excellent, too. Matt O'Leary makes "The Brain," a Rubick's Cube-solving font of exposition, actually plausible. Noah Fleiss is a sympathetic goon. Meagan Good is deliciously bad as the Queen Bitch of the Drama Nerds. Plus, Richard Roundtree, "Shaft" himself, plays a bad-mutha of a Vice Principal. (Practically the only notable adult role.)
And style, style, style: I especially dug the fight scene lit by the spinning mirror. This is the first film from writer/ director Rian Johnson, but it won't be the last. Bonus points, also, for using "Sister Ray" by the Velvet Underground over the closing credits. The best end-title musical choice since "Where is My Mind?" by the Pixies in "Fight Club."
Check it out. You know I would never lie about anything as important as a film review. When have I ever steered you wrong?