Brick. DVD; from library.
The Plot: Brendan's ex-girlfriend, Emily, contacts him -- she needs his help. Brendan cannot say no . . . and finds himself unraveling a mystery that involves rich kids, drugs, a mysterious crime king pin, and a murder.
The Good: This is a modern high school setting -- but nothing is what it appears. Brendan is a loner; but there is more to his story and more to him. At first he seems to be a high school outsider, but as he calls in contacts, makes connections, and gets deeper and deeper into the world that Emily was part of, it becomes clear that there is more to Brendan than the boy who eats lunch by himself.
This is not a Blue Velvet film, where the innocent boy gets in over his head; Brendan is not naive; he is not innocent; he is well aware of the evils and complications of the world he is investigating. Just like Veronica Mars is smarter than me -- so is Brendan.
I had heard this described as a detective story set in high school, a film noir tale, and thought, huh, Veronica Mars. And yes, like Veronica, Brendan is smart, aware of his world, but unlike Veronica Mars, this isn't a "high school" story despite it's setting. Adults and class rooms barely make an appearance; the teens act with the freedom of adults; and talk in the lingo of 1940s films.
At first, I was thrown by the language and delivery; it's used as teen slang; but it placed the story on a more serious level. I took the characters more seriously. And viewed them as older.... I think it was a deliberate casting choice that the actors playing teens are all in their 20s, adding to the gravity of the story line. (Actually, and weirdly, the teens acting like adults and tough guy talk reminded me of Bugsy Malone. But seriously, Bugsy is a light hearted musical, and this is a hardboiled crime story.)
What else? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one good looking guy. I knew him from his roles in 3rd Rock From The Sun and Ten Things I Hate About You. The boy has grown up quite nicely. He's one blockbuster away from being the next Orlando Bloom or Heath Ledger.
Finally ... this is the type of movie that demands you watch it again. And again. And again.