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Brick 

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For his debut feature Rian Johnson meticulously re-creates Dashiell Hammett's brand of gumshoe noir but transplants the blind-alley mystery and rat-a-tat dialogue to a modern SoCal suburban high school. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (a sitcom veteran who's been quietly building up an impressive body of work in movies) stars as a world-weary student trying to unravel the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend, and Lukas Haas is his nemesis, a ruthless, clubfooted heroin dealer who does business out of a paneled den in his parents' basement. It's a limited conceit--gone is the noir sense of being trapped by bad life choices--but it's worth seeing for the tightly coiled plot, well-realized characters, and novel take on rapacious teen culture. 119 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Esquire, Landmark's Century Centre.

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