Thursday, December 07, 2006


Dashiell Hammett had a language all to his own and one could speculate that he was the first to bring the lingo from the darkest part of the other side of the tracks into every corner of America, though that should be tempered with the fact that virtually none of the works of his early pulp contemporaries made it in to the noir era.

I had the pleasure of renting Brick. A detective story set in a high school in sunny San Clemente, California. It's the city that Nixon spent his "exile" years after leaving the White House. The film's director, Rian Johnson, did a great job of bringing darkness to such a bright 'burb. Rian and I both have read a book the Coen brothers and found out that Miller's Crossing is a blend of Hammett's novels, "Red Harvest" and "The Glass Key."

You can see the Coen's/Barry Sonnenfeld's influence in the action scenes. There are echos of "Miller's Crossing" throughout, especially in the kinesis of the violence. And with both films, they do a fantastic job of incorporating Hammett's lingo, though Johnson takes it a step further by blending the now archaic idioms as if they were contemporary dialogue, and updating some of them into a lingo all his own.

The fact that he staged it a high school does take away from the film to a lesser degree, as you have to suspend disbelief to the fact that kids could walk in and out of high school so easily. Not to mention that the fact that the adults in the film are almost non-existant and they are superfluous to the point that you expect Richard Roundtree to use the wah-wah patter of a Charlie Brown special.

Therein, also lies the beauty of it. Here we are in Orange County and the parents are too rich, or too oblivious to see this underworld sprouting and thriving in their own backyard.

The mystery is set up well and while the payoff is nice, it's not a solid knockout, though it wins on points. There are also elements of "The Maltese Falcon" and I give credit to Rian Johnson for not going with an ending straight out of "The Dain Curse."



Blogger James said...

I liked the movie, too, even as I recognize it's not for everyone. It's for me! Haha

Although I have to say, I kind of like Miller's Crossing better.

"Take yer flunky and dangle."

Sun Dec 10, 07:11:00 PM PST  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

Oh, absolutely, "Miller's" heads above the rest. Rian did pretty damn good considering he doesn't have a Joel or an Ethan to bounce ideas off of, plus this was his first full-length feature film.

Did you trip off how Tugger and the assassin with the knife walked with such a deliberate stride, just like Mike Starr's character in "Miller's?"

Sun Dec 10, 08:10:00 PM PST  

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