Quint takes a look at indie favorite BRICK as well as Harold Ramis' ICE HARVEST!!
Published at: Oct. 23, 2005, 2:59 p.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I saw these two films a little over a week ago in preparation of interviewing the directors of both while they were in town to show them during the film festival.
I have now interviewed both Rian Johnson (BRICK) and the man, the myth, the legend Harold Ramis (ICE HARVEST) and those are each half hour interviews (to be transcribed shortly) that went very well. I have now found some time to sit down and write out reviews for these two flicks after an odd triple feature I had yesterday, which you will hear about very soon. I must be quick with these because starting in about 2 hours I go from Stephen Frears' new movie to the esteemed Doctor Boll's new movie. I wonder which one'll be better?
This flick got a lot of steam out of Sundance, many people buzzing about the unique style of writing and direction from newcomer Rian Johnson. BRICK is a pulpy noir-y tale transposed to a modern day high school setting. The film is in color (which was a surprise to me), but the color is washed out, dirty. Like it exists in one of Paul Schrader's universes. There's something very real about it. The dialogue comes out quick and harsh and full of cool, yet it's not an imitation of any classic noir or '50s banter movie.
The story is about a hardcase Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is asked for help by an ex-girlfriend. He looks into her precarious situation and ends up digging deep into the not so innocent underbelly of the student body. Every clique has their own nastiness, but I don't want to make it out as something spoofy or ridiculous. As Levitt investigates the first of 3 or 4 big mysteries presented to him through the course of the film he checks all his connections in the rich kids and jocks, drama department, assistant principals, druggies, etc. and realizing they're all connected and have something to hide. But these groups are all character based, not caricature based.
After little time has passed, Levitt's somewhat minor mystery turns into a major one involving a dead body and everybody with a tiny piece of knowledge that Levitt has to find and then piece together for the big picture.
Levitt turns in a first class performance in this film. I'd even go so far as to say that his work in BRICK is one of the best performances I've seen in any film this year. He immediately strikes a sympathetic yet anti-heroic chord. He spits colorful sentences and orders out of his mouth with great ease, keeping them feeling fresh and not just a rehash of classic characters. I haven't seen MYSTERIOUS SKIN, but I heard he turns in a great performance there, too. Levitt may be poised to become the Johnny Depp of the next generation if he keeps this up. We'll see.
Richard Roundtree (SHAFT himself) has a small part in the film, playing an Assistant Principal who is Levitt's connection to/protection from the unseen adults/staff of the story. He's not in the film very much, but he's got a quiet power that is undeniable. He's one of the great ones.
Emilie de Ravin plays the ex-girlfriend who sets the whole story into motion. Most of you will know her as Claire from LOST and her character her has a rather eerie relation to her character on the television show. Since she's the instigator of the mystery, her character is perhaps the most mysterious. She's in very little of the movie, but her presence is felt through out the whole film.
Lukas Haas plays the cane-carrying leader of the drug underworld. Haas is cast totally against type here. He's got a quiet menace about him that is nice compliment to quiet intelligence he usually evokes onscreen. You're never quite sure how much Haas knows or how much he's playing those around him.
This flick really impressed me. It's not 100% perfect. You can feel some of the inexperience sneaking through here or there... nothing tangible for me, nothing specific, but there's a feeling to the film that feels very new, for good or ill. I don't think it's due for release until next Spring, but if you get a chance to see it a fest playing near you, go do it. Highly recommended.
Harold Ramis gets lots of love around this house. I grew up with GHOSTBUSTERS, STRIPES as well as VACATION, GROUNDHOG DAY (which in particular a family favorite) and CADDYSHACK. He acted and wrote the first two and directed the latter three.
That being said, I haven't cared for his recent offerings. I'm not really a fan of the ANALYZE movies, didn't like BEDAZZLED or MULTIPLICITY. So I didn't walk into ICE HARVEST expecting it to be great, but I was hoping it was.
It's not a fantastic movie, but it's definitely his best film since GROUNDHOG DAY. It's much bleaker, much more dark than his past offerings. The story is of a pair of guys that decide to rob a mob dude of about $2 million. The movie opens with them getting the money, in a total white collar crime way, right before Christmas. An ice storm comes in, so they bide their time in this small town. Of course, their crime is caught much earlier than they thought and they end up having to dodge a lug of a hitman and try to figure out how to get out.
The two leads are John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton who are both doing what they do best. It might have just been the snow and Christmas lights, but it really felt Billy Bob slipped back into his BAD SANTA mode, which is great. I love him in that movie. The bleakness and the black comedy kind of shine John Cusack in a GROSSE POINT BLANK light throughout, although his character in this movie is much more bumbling and less confident.
Oliver Platt... Oliver Platt is hands down one of my favorite actors working today. He's always hilarious even if the movie he's in isn't. He's fantastic in this movie, absolutely at the top of his game. Matter of fact, he's so funny in this movie that if the rest of the flick was godawful I'd still recommend seeing it just for Platt's work in it. He plays Cusack's best friend... who happens to be married to Cusack's ex-wife after stealing her from Cusack... Yet there is no drama about this. Cusack is indifferent and after we meet his ex, we understand why.
The friendship is what makes this movie for me. Platt gets shitfaced and obnoxious to deal with his crummy (yet prosperous) life while Cusack just stays cold to it all. It's a great straight man/loony bastard combo. I want to see a whole series devoted to these two and the adventures they have together.
Randy Quaid also pops up in the movie and is really great, playing a humorous, but really mean character. It's good to see him playing something other than the bumbling idiot (which he does really well, by the way... I'm not knockin' it).
Connie Nielson plays the femme fatale of the story. She's obviously playing all sides and uses her sex appeal to get what she wants. She's a bad person with a great body.
The violence in the film is pretty shocking in contrast to the black comedy. It's harsh and at times graphic. Not stomach turning or anything. There's no Lucio Fulci moments, but it is a tougher movie than you might expect.
The flick comes out at the end of November, so if you feel like a holiday movie with a bit of an edge (a little more in THE REF category than Rudolph) then you won't go wrong with this one.
Okay, I'm off! Be back soon with my thoughts on a couple more, including Round Three with Doctor Boll.