Talented actors Kim Basinger ("L.A. Confidential") and Lucas Haas ("Witness") have done some terrific work before, but are saddled with a thoroughly mindless script and minimal direction. Darkly lit, this movie is a would-be cat-and-mouse chase thriller that pits abused housewife Basinger against Haas and his group of horny deranged thugs. She runs through the woods to avoid capture, with only a red tool box filled with conveniently sharp tools to fight with. Nothing is believable in this movie. The characters are either dumb and bloodthirsty or dumb and scared. Therefore, there's no one to root for. Too bad.
This is a 3-bone, even a 4-bone thriller. The film hides its hand so close to the vest that when the truth becomes known, it knocks the viewer's proverbial socks off. Combined with a superb cast and a script firmly planted in moral outrage, there's not a better film about hunting for war criminals.
Of Van Sant's recent 4 films, this is the only one that didn't do it for me. Try as I might, I couldn't reconcile the setting with the characters. Halfway through the film, I realized that I was exhausting myself trying to love what just wasn't working for me. The main character just didn't have the manic spark that I would expect of a jilted rock musician. He seemed pretty tepid - all depression and social avoidance with little else to balance out his character. He mumbled a lot to himself in a pretty passionless way. Less a cornered animal than a bored kid. His walk through the forest in the beginning didn't prepare me for a character in the depths of despair or a character with any desire or motivations that would have made him interesting.
The youngish crowd hanging out in the house seemed to be drawn to the main character for his fame and money more than anything else, which might be expected, but I had no idea who these people were. Were they band members? Groupies? I had no sense of them, and so, I had no sense of the social world that the main character was drifting from or avoiding.
<a href='http://braidedthreads.blogspot.com/2008/06/last-days.html'>Last Days</a>
Brick" is the story of a jaded investigator attempting to unravel a mystery involving shady characters from both the upper-crust and the criminal underbelly. This is a story of murder. A story of steely, tough men and seductive,calculating women. And everyone is still in highschool. Only two adults get minimal screen time.
There are many noirish elements in this film. There are shadows here and there and characters moving in and out of the darkness. The scenes by the dark tunnel are well done. The dialog is very smart. You even get to hear an old-fashioned telephone ringing. With a real bell and everything.
These High School kids have the attitudes and mannerisms of world-worn adults twice or three times their age. The film is played very straight. Occassionally, the gap between the style it is invoking and the setting is so wide that we can see the playfulness underneath it all. But the filmmaker also runs the risk of the audience alternately becoming absorbed in the story and being pulled out of it by that gap between the story and its setting.
Since the story is played straight, the fourth wall remains fairly intact; there are very few moments that seem to intentionally break the facade. There are two brief scenes where one character's mother shows up and her motherly presence offers a bit of a "wink" at the camera. The closest thing to parody is a scene between Brandon, the main character, and the principal of the high school, which plays a lot like a scene between Humphrey Bogart and a government official. Brandon is tough as nails, and both he and the principal play off each other, each taking their turn at disclosing and witholding information in order to gain the upper hand.
Brick is pretty engaging and fun, but it is hard to be too engaged in the unfolding of its complex plot at the same time that you are having fun with irony of the whole setup. After all, shouldn't these kids actually be in school, learning things?
The Hound sums it up well
Reviewed by KHL for Brick at 2008-08-04 17:32:33
Anyone who is a fan of hardboiled and noir will love this thriller, nicely shot (no pun intended) and directed. If you can follow the dialogue (I had ask my husband, a hardboiled fan, what the heck some of it meant), you will become absorbed by the story and forget that these are *highschoolers*, and not hardened detectives or thugs. There's some nice humor in the guise of a character named 'Tug', a highly amped musclehead, and Lukas Haas is great as the head honcho, 'The Pin', a kind of dark funeral director looking guy wearing all black, with a cape, who runs his kingdom out of his oblivious Mom's basement. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is phenomenol too as the main lead. Great film to watch multiple times, even when you already know the ending.
Fun, Campy Horror
Reviewed by KHL for The Tripper at 2008-04-14 11:30:17
First time director Arquette has a definite agenda here about conservatism, but if you like movies like Cabin Fever and Dead End, you will like this fun romp. A VW vanful of modern day young hippies venture to an outdoor 'Free Love' music-fest, only to be stalked by a Ronald Reagan mask-wearing psycho. Highlights include Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) as a sleazy concert promoter, Jason Mewes (Jay from Clerks) as a drugged out hippie, and Thomas Jane as an unflappable sheriff. Don't look for spooky, scary here, but it's fun, fun, fun to watch!