Brick is a 2005 American neo-noir thriller film written and directed by Rian Johnson, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. 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 New York and Los Angeles on April 7, 2006.
The film’s narrative centers on a hardboiled detective story that takes place in a Californian suburb. Most of the main characters are high school students. The film draws heavily in plot, characterization, and dialogue from hardboiled classics, especially from Dashiell Hammett. The title refers to a block of heroin, compressed roughly to the size and shape of a brick.
The film is widely regarded as a cult classic.
High school student Brendan Frye is living a lonely existence after breaking up with his girlfriend Emily Kostich and betraying his friend Jerr to the authorities.
Brendan receives a phone call from a terrified Emily. She begs him to help her, mentioning a “brick”, “poor Frisco”, “Tug”, and “the Pin” before abruptly and fearfully hanging up. Her fear appears to have been due to a passing black Ford Mustang, from which a distinctive-looking cigarette was thrown. Brendan searches for Emily and arranges a meeting through Dode, leader of a stoner clique that Emily belongs to. When they meet, Emily recants what she had said on the phone and tells Brendan to let her go. Brendan steals her notepad during the encounter, finding a note that leads him directly to her dead body.
Brendan takes it upon himself to solve her murder, enlisting the aid of an acquaintance named Brain. Brendan hides the body to avoid police intrusion. Brendan discovers that “The Pin” mentioned by Emily is a local drug baron, during a party, after obtaining an invitation similar to one found in Emily’s notebook. He finds the information on The Pin from a girl named Laura while at the party. It is also strongly implied that Laura is attracted to Brendan, even though she is the apparent girlfriend of Brad Bramish, a football player.
Brendan sets about getting The Pin’s attention by beating up Brad Bramish after finding that the arrogant jock is also The Pin’s regular customer. Afterwards, Brendan is beaten up by an unknown young man while speaking on the phone with Brain.
Later while walking, Brendan sees the same black Ford Mustang in a parking lot. He attempts to break into it, and is again beaten up by the same man. Brendan asks the man several times to meet The Pin. Reluctant at first, going so far as to drive away and then come back again, the young man takes Brendan to The Pin.
Brendan meets with The Pin and persuades him to consider Brendan for a spot in his operation. It is also revealed that the unknown man is Tug, The Pin’s main grunt and muscle. The Pin tells Brendan he will either hire him or rub him out by the next day. On the walk back home Laura tells Brendan that The Pin had previously rejected Emily’s attempt to join, so she stole The Pin’s brick. Laura then offers to help Brendan, but he distrusts her. While Brendan awaits a response from The Pin, he is attacked by a knife wielding man while at school, again while on the phone with Brain. Brendan begins to cough.
The Pin accepts Brendan. Brendan gets a call from Dode, who says he saw Brendan hide Emily’s body and, believing Brendan to be the murderer, vows to ruin him. Brendan meets with The Pin, who suspects an uprising from Tug.
Brain reports that “poor Frisco” is Frisco Farr, a student who fell into a coma after injecting poorly-cut heroin. At The Pin’s house, Tug tells Brendan that The Pin received a shipment of ten bricks and sold eight; one was stolen and replaced with one that had been doctored with detergent, causing Frisco’s coma. The Pin arrives and tells Tug about hearing from someone who knows what happened to Emily. Brendan, weakened from several recent fistfights, intercepts Dode before the meeting, and discovers Emily was pregnant when she died. Dode hints to Tug and The Pin that he has information about who killed Emily, saying it is someone very close, but Tug goes berserk and beats Dode before shooting him in the head. Tug then threatens The Pin, who walks away as Brendan faints from a coughing fit. Brendan awakens in Tug’s bedroom, where Tug says he’s at war with The Pin.
Brendan confronts Kara, accusing her of manipulating Dode by telling him Emily was carrying his baby and pushing him to sell his information to The Pin.
Brendan arranges a meeting between Tug and The Pin, and waits in Tug’s bed; Laura enters to comfort him as he sobs over Emily, and they couple. Brendan recognizes her post-sex cigarette as the same distinctive brand that was dropped from Tug’s black Mustang after Emily was frightened during the first phone call.
At the meeting, chaos erupts when it is discovered that the tenth brick is missing once again. Tug beats The Pin to death while Brendan flees, escaping just as police arrive. As he goes he passes the trunk of Tug’s car, where he has hidden Emily’s body to ensure that police pin her murder on Tug.
The next day, Brendan meets with Laura in the school’s football field. Brendan explains to Laura that he knows she set Emily up to take the fall for Laura’s theft of the ninth brick. She further manipulated Emily into meeting Tug who ultimately killed her, after letting him believe he was responsible for Emily’s pregnancy. It is revealed that Laura later stole the tenth brick as well. Brendan tells Laura he has put this truth in a note to Vice Principal Trueman of the school, who will find the brick in Laura’s locker if, in fact, what he says is true. Laura vindictively tells Brendan that Emily expressed regret that she couldn’t keep her pregnancy because she didn’t love the prospective father, and that Emily was three months pregnant when she died, implying that the baby was his. The film ends with Brendan watching Laura as she walks away.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film:
First Published: Mar 1, 2012 – Last Updated: Apr 9, 2014