Instead of snakes on a plane, what we have here is Hammett in a high school, I suppose. The script is obviously an homage to Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon, and there are some bows to films like The Big Sleep as well as most of film noir. The difference is that Brick puts high school students into the roles filled by Bogart and Bacall and Elisha Cook, Jr. Does it work? Well, sort of. I was, for some reason, reminded of Samuel Johnson's comment on women preachers: "It is not done well but you are surprised to find it done at all."
Actually, Brick is done well. Sort of. Some of it takes place at Low Budget High, a school which seems to have no teachers and only a couple of students other than those involved in the story. (In the oddly deserted school, however, the drama department stands out. Its four of five students appear to be there at all hours of the day and night in constant rehearsal.)
Not only does the school seem to have no students, the students seem to have no parents. Well, there's one parent, but she's the mom of the drug kingpin (who's cleverly called "The Pin"). He's not a student, though. I liked it that his office was in his mom's basement. And I liked his mother. She serves cereal, apple juice, and cookies to the hero after the Pin's enforcer beats the crap out of him.
When I watch a movie from the '40s with Bogart or just about anybody, I can understand the dialogue. It's spoken crisply and cleanly. One reason Brick didn't quite work for me is that the actors seemed to be mumbling or whispering about half the time. (Possibly I have a hearing problem, like other old guys of my age. And while we're at it, you damn kids get off my lawn!) I liked a lot of the dialogue I could hear, though.
Another problem is that if you're familiar with film noir or '40s detective flicks, you pretty much know where things are heading. There are no real shocks or suprises. The wrap-up indicates that the plot's as complex as the one in The Big Sleep, but you can probably keep up with it just fine.
Would I recommend Brick? Sure. It's a little slow in spots, but it's fun to watch, even if you know what's coming. Check it out.