Big question: A teenager (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) investigates a complex environment of guns, drugs and betrayal in his high school. Can a Martin Scorcese-style gangster story be directed towards the MTV crowd?
Catch it: "Brick" is a remarkable debut, tapping into the sin, the secrets and the slippery slope of high school relationships with moxie to spare. Johnson's fabulously unique voice turns suburban teens into tough-talking hustlers in a society that hovers between reality and impossibility.
Skip it if: Your favorite movie about teenagers is "She's All That."
Bottom line: A noir about pre-college kids isn't a gimmick; it's a brilliant way of converting the cryptic communication and allegiances of high school into a potboiling mystery. Part dark comedy, part crime drama and entirely fascinating, "Brick" is whip-smart and exhilaratingly original; you'll leave the theater giddy with excitement.
Bonus: Phrases like "duck soup," "reef worm" and "take a powder" will soon enter the teenage vernacular, and parents who already thought their kids spoke a different language will have their confirmation.
Written, directed and edited by Rian Johnson; photographed by Steve Yedlin; production designed by Jodie Tillen; music by Nathan Johnson; produced by Ram Bergman and Mark Mathis. A Focus Features release; opens Friday, April 7. Running time: 1:50. MPAA rating: R (violent and drug content).
Brendan -- Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Emily -- Emilie de Ravin
The Pin -- Lukas Haas
The Brain -- Matt O'Leary
Laura -- Nora Zehetner
Assistant VP Trueman -- Richard Roundtree