Calling Rian Johnson's high school noir a piece of stuntwork might seem tantamount to hitting it with a pie. But Brick represents an impossible dream: the recycling -- with conviction -- of cinema's most calloused and beloved genre, as applied to contemporary middle-class life. Opening with a found corpse, the film then flashes back in time to show us a heartbroken teen named Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), lured into his ex-girlfriend's drug troubles with a single mysterious phone call. Thereafter, he starts investigating how deeply she was involved with the local drug kingpin (Lukas Haas) and why she was killed. Every step of the process is a deft shadow of noir logic -- just showing up at the right party, or beating the tar out of the right thug, sends unspoken messages to "the right people." Noir's inherent cynicism is deployed here as a near-tears metaphor for pre-adult isolation, insecurity, and self-destruction; it's such a simple fusion of potent American cultural ideas that it ends up seeming seminal.