I think I would have enjoyed this movie much more if the DVD I watched had subtitles. It’s a strange and rather original hybrid of a highschool film and the hardboiled detective noir in the style of Dashiell Hammett, and so everyone speaks in this highly stylized slang I just couldn’t tune into. Language is a funny thing: these days it’s much more natural for me to express myself in English rather than Russian, yet I never ever have to strain to understand Russian speech, whereas I’m still struggling with English-speaking movies at times. As a result, I think I missed out on maybe 60% of the dialogue and had to hop on wikipedia to find out the details of the plot that sailed right over my head.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, the movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan, a highschool loner who finds his ex-girlfriend dead soon after receiving a frantic phone call from her. He’s still not over her, so he decides not to involve the cops and solve her murder himself, tracing her movements to the highschool drug ring and cliques he’s always avoided, meeting vampish girls, thuggish boys and an eccentric crime lord. This is all played as a completely straight homage to the classic film noir, without a hint of wink or parody (though it comes close in the scene where the drug lord’s mum serves his son and Brendan cookies and cereal).
Because the film is so stylized and in a sense artificial, it’s hard to really care about any of the characters, though Gordon-Levitt’s puppy-eyed vulnerability is quite endearing. The movie was still fun to watch despite my issues with the dialogue and lack of emotional involvement, and as a debut feature, it’s an astonishing display of Johnson’s already-confident visual flair and directorial skills. I really look forward to what he does with his gig directing the next Star Wars movie, if nothing else it’s going to look striking and stylish for sure.