Of all the movies, in all the world, why did this one have to walk into mine. There are hardly any detective movies made anymore. Sure there are your action heroes who use outrageous amounts of violence to get from plot point to plot point leaving a trail of explosions and dead bodies in their wake, bu the detective movie is a little past its time. From time to time a movie comes along that has elements of this lost genre. For example, "The Usual Suspects" and "LA Confidential" had elements of a detective story, but they weren't truly in the genre. This movie however, has all the basic criteria for detective story, just with an unusual hero and and unusual setting.
Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is contacted by his ex-girlfriend, Emily Kostich (Emilie de Ravin), who is in a bit of trouble. She gets him involved in what she's mixed up with. When Brendan finds Emily dead at the entrance of a tunnel, he pulls out all the stops to find out who did this and why...and also how to get them back for doing it. Centering around a high school where the population of students have a far more dramatic life than any real high school did. There are some who are big time drug dealers, others drug users, and others who can be tapped for information. Brendan puts his life and body on the line in order to bring justice and revenge on Emily's killers...nothing can stop him.
Grade - A-
This story is amazingly good. It has a feeling of a classic "film noir" detective story. You have "a dame" ask the "Private Dick" for help and he'll do anything to find out what he needs to. You even have some nice soft jazz accompaniment at times. The movie starts out really quick and gets you right into the story. There's no back story or too much explanation right off the bat, which adds to the charm of the whole. These people are suppose to be in high school, but they live a far more complicated and drama centered life that I had in high school. This high school story plays out like a microcosm of a classic tale of mystery. You have a lot of characters in this film that you'd find in an old detective story (the informant, the dame, the PI, the pusher, etc.) and you have the a lot of the same plot elements as well (the play, the double cross, the secret meetings, pumping people for information, etc.). It really is an amazing story to get sucked into. It's sad that director and writer Rian Johnson hasn't done another one of these types of movies or really anything else. There are some great camera shots and angles that add a lot to the beauty of this film and the atmosphere to the whole movie seems charismatically out of place, which is not a bad thing either. The actors do a great job of playing much older characters than their characters are actually suppose to be. The movie has a little nod as well by having Richard Roundtree (Shaft!) make a short cameo. The ending of the movie is perfect as well, a lot of wide angels and a good sum up of what happened just in case you didn't figure it all out, or didn't understand it all. The movie can be a little heady at times and a bit confusing; so if you don't like to think during your movies, this one isn't for you. Yet, this movie is a perfect modern tale of a classic detective story that was a joy to watch and thought provoking to the end. Here's looking at you kid.