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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Brick (remastered) (Blu-ray)
Brick (remastered) (Blu-ray)
Kl Studio Classics // R // January 7, 2020 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted January 15, 2020 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE FILM:

One of the most unique films of 2006, Rian Johnson's Brick has obtained cult status for its homages to hard-boiled detective classics from authors Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and others. Set in and around a suburban California high school, the film sees star Joseph Gordon-Levitt enter the town's drug-fueled underbelly to seek answers on what happened to his missing ex-girlfriend. Deliberately paced and somewhat convoluted, Brick is also expertly acted and craftily plotted, with a hazy, heightened reality for its characters. The film calls upon expected characteristics of pulpy violence, slang dialogue, unreliable witnesses and scummy landscapes, and shifting its characters down to high-school age is an interesting stylistic choice. I am not as enamored with Brick as some, but I find it an entertaining, twisty bit of noir that first introduced us to director/writer Johnson.

Brendan Frye (Gordon-Levitt) sulks in solitude after breaking up with girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin); eating alone in the lunch room and ignoring other friends. One afternoon he gets a call from a panicked Emily asking for his help; and she mentions several strange words and phrases that do not initially have meaning to Brendan. When Emily goes missing, Brendan hits the trail himself, relying on witnesses like upper-class manipulator Laura Dannon (Nora Zehetner) and another ex-girlfriend, "drama vamp" Kara (Meagan Good), for information. He discovers Emily has become involved with local drug pusher the Kingpin (Lukas Haas), and begins moving through that man's organization to figure out what happened. Along the way he is threatened with prosecution by Assistant Vice Principal V.P. Trueman (Richard Roundtree) and violence by the Kingpin's enforcer Tugger (Noah Fleiss). It becomes clear that not everything is as it seems, and many duplicitous characters float in and out of Brendan's path.

Those looking for natural dialogue and well-behaved teenagers will not find either here; these socially-obsessed mini-adults speak in short bursts of California-dreaming slang and treat one another with callous disinterest. There is a lot of outsider observation in Brick, as in the aforementioned detective potboilers, and Brendan sees these characters move about like pawns on a chessboard. Some of the dialogue and melodrama here is borderline pretentious, but Johnson keeps things moving well enough to make those moments fleeting. Gordon-Levitt is a strong lead, and, while he is not the most personable character, Brendan at least gives the audience a compelling reason to take this bizarre journey with him. This is definitely a moody, quirky film, and it does offer quick bursts of violence, mainly in the form of brutal punches and kicks. Most of these characters are unlikeable, including druggie Emily, but they are not meant to be.

Although the entirety of Brick is an interesting, usually entertaining exercise in noir courting, I do find some of the posturing and red herrings kind of irritating. Brick takes a bit too long to get where it is going, and that ending is not necessarily a surprise. The pacing also suffers in the final third, just as the truth is about to be revealed. Even so, Brick set itself apart from most dramas in 2006, and it remains an interesting watch. Johnson is now on his fifth theatrical release, the successful and enjoyable Knives Out, and continues to prove a talent behind the camera (yes, even with The Last Jedi). Fans of the film will appreciate the new 4K scan and transfer completed for this Kino Lorber Blu-ray edition.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

This 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer comes from a new 4K restoration supervised by writer/director Rian Johnson and is a significant upgrade over previous home-video releases. Colors are boldly saturated and more vibrant, black levels are deep, shadow detail is abundant, and texture is impressive. Fine-object detail is strong, and wide shots are crisp and clear. There is a bit of heavier grain at times due to the low-budget stock, but the film looks good in motion. Highlights are appropriate and do not bloom, even in the California sun, and I noticed no big issues with aliasing or digital noise reduction.

SOUND:

Audio is available in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio variants, as well as Dolby Digital 2.0. These tracks are perfectly adequate for the dialogue-heavy film; and that dialogue is crisp and clear. Ambient effects make decent use of the surrounds, and the score is crisp and integrated appropriately. My only complaint is that the audio levels seem to be a bit lower than for most discs I screen, requiring me to turn up my receiver. English SDH subtitles are available.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release arrives in a standard Blu-ray case. Extras include an Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Rian Johnson, Actors Nora Zehetner and Noah Segan, Producer Ram Bergman, Production Designer Jodie Tillen and Costume Designer Michele Posch; Deleted and Extended Scenes with introductions by Johnson (22:33/HD); The Inside Track: Casting the Roles of Laura and Dode (3:12/HD) and the Theatrical Trailer (2:31/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Kino's new Blu-ray edition of Rian Johnson's Brick offers an excellent transfer from a 4K restoration. The film is a twisty, interesting homage to hardboiled detective novels and film noir that suffers from some pretense. Recommended.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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