Brick stays afloat with stellar performances

If the Bard can have at least a handful of his own youthful adaptations, whether he wants them or not-likely the latter, since a handful of those updates warrant at least a few tosses in the grave-why can’t Dashiell Hammett?

Director Rian Johnson answers that question with the contemporary-set Brick, a sly, dexterous and dapper detective tale that serves as both homage to and a send-up of archetypal noir stories.,She’s the Man, a teenage adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, is currently circulating the multiplexes. Over the past decade, nearly a dozen modernized adaptations of Shakespeare have been produced (and, shockingly, not all starred Julia Stiles).

If the Bard can have at least a handful of his own youthful adaptations, whether he wants them or not-likely the latter, since a handful of those updates warrant at least a few tosses in the grave-why can’t Dashiell Hammett?

Director Rian Johnson answers that question with the contemporary-set Brick, a sly, dexterous and dapper detective tale that serves as both homage to and a send-up of archetypal noir stories.

Brick’s plot is, in pure noir fashion, deceptively uncomplicated. After receiving a worrisome phone call from a missing ex-girlfriend, Emily (a whiny Emilie de Ravin), Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) begins an investigation around his present-day southern California high school for her and ends up in troubling situations. And no, this is not the type of trouble that will send him to detention.

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Brendan, in an attempt to “shake things up,” becomes involved in the underground drug operations of his school, which are run by The Pin (a faux-hawk donning, duck-cane-holding Lukas Haas) out of the wood-paneled basement of his parents’ house. The film manages to sneak in a few allusions to The Maltese Falcon here: Lukas Haas’ brass falcons (which appear on his mailbox and in his lair) often pervade the mise-en-sc