BRICK’s Finally on Blu-ray and Better than Ever

Julian spills the straight on this stunning 4K restoration of Rian Johnson’s debut feature

When Rian Johnson’s Brick came out in 2006, I was a car-less high school sophomore and didn’t get a chance to catch the film in its limited release. When Brick finally hit home video, it quickly became one of those discs I wore out in my DVD player. The film’s concept of Hammett-in-a-High-School lured me in hook, line, and sinker as an introverted lanky dude with a budding love of film and an eagerness to grow up. But what’s stuck with me about Brick, and the biggest thing it taught me, was how much the film and its writer/director love language.

Brick was one of the first films I saw that taught me how much dialogue matters — not just in a sense of conveying the plot, but in rhythm, mood, place, and character, too. Its throwback turns of phrase often obscured what was being said as much as it revealed what was — that the most colorful of words could hide the deepest of secrets — and the silences in between them, even more so. The hardboiled detective lingo brought me into Brick’s elaborate world, but it’s how Johnson and his characters used this language — to spar with words, to hide their true intentions, to mask at every turn how they really felt — it resonated. Plus the fact that everyone sells this dialogue in the most effortlessly cool way imaginable.

But over the course of Brick, a gap festers between these cool-as-hell one-liners and the characters rattling them off. When I was 15, I used to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Brendan as this slick-talking superhero who kept on getting up despite taking on all the fistfights in San Clemente, driven to find out who murdered the girl he loved. But even though he may sound like the coolest guy imaginable, Brendan, well…he gets the stuffing kicked out of him by everyone in town, and feels it every stop of the way. Much like his toxic relationship with Emily when she was still alive, his pursuit to find her killer is obsessive and self-destructive. And while he tries to remain above those he joins ranks with in the criminal underworld, Brendan must eventually reckon with his own damning culpability in the deadly actions of the Pin, Tug, Laura, et al. While his story may be inspired by characters like Sam Spade, Spike Spiegel, and Philip Marlowe, Brendan is far from their equal. He’s far more fallible, both physically and morally — and that’s what makes him so compellingly human.

There’s one scene that shakes me the most, though, after revisiting Brick for this Blu-ray. It’s towards the end as war finally breaks out in the Burg between the Pin and Tug, when Brendan finally has a moment to grieve for Emily. Brendan’s sorrow sneaks up on him, as if finally taking a moment to take everything in hadn’t occurred to him until that point. Brick is a movie full of fast-talking bravado that’d make Bogart blush, but this is an unexpected moment of vulnerability. It comes so quickly that it feels like a scene from another movie entirely. As he breaks down in Laura’s arms, Johnson makes you remember what was once played for laughs in the setup, and what was completely forgotten as the film broached more and more serious subject matter.

That for all of their hardboiled dialogue, for all of their drug deals and backstabs…these are all just kids. They’re in too deep. And they’ve grown up far faster than they ever should have. It’s something that you don’t fully understand when you’re 15, but hits damn hard when you’re pushing 30.

In the 15 years since Brick’s initial release, the newly Oscar-nominated Johnson has deservedly risen to stardom with films like The Brothers Bloom, Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Knives Out. While the caliber of Johnson’s films has only increased, they’ve all retained the spark of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and sharp-minded character craft that makes Brick such a repeatable watch. With this release, Kino Lorber Studio Classics finally brings Johnson’s debut to Blu-ray stateside, where I hope it’ll find renewed acclaim and resonance with its viewers as it has with me.


Kino had originally announced this release for May 2019, but the fortuitous intervention of Johnson and Director of Photography Steve Yedlin allowed for Brick to get a top-down 4K restoration. The lengthy delay has more than paid off, as the film has a night-and-day difference in quality. Overall, this new transfer is much darker and higher in contrast, playing up the film’s gritty noir elements while showcasing a much wider color palate. This is especially noticeable in the beach scene between Brendan and the Pin, with an even more dazzling sunset than in the film’s original DVD release. The film’s shadows feel much deeper, bringing the more sinister elements of Brick’s hardboiled suburbia to the surface. While how much darker this transfer is takes some getting used to (especially if you’re more familiar with the DVD), there’s no denying just how much more the film works with this visual tonal shift. It’s definitely worth mentioning how much more detail is in this transfer — Brick’s set design comes to life here in all of its worn, vintage glory, from the grain in the wood paneling of the Pin’s basement, to the wisps of torn paper grain in the coded notes of Emily’s notebook. The rise in quality makes Johnson’s film feel infinitely more lived in and whole, and makes the wait for this release that much more worth it for both new fans and old fans of Brick.

As with the DVD, Brick’s 5.1 surround track is a textured, rich experience, with both Johnson’s crackling dialogue and composer Nathan Johnson’s vibrant score on display in equal, complimentary measure. An optional 2.0 downmix is also available, which appears to be ported over from the British Optimum release.

There are some subtitle issues throughout the feature; while overall the track works well, they occasionally are delayed compared to what’s on screen. Compared to the better-timed and HOH-accessible subtitles on the original DVD, they’re a bit of a step down in quality.

Special Features

  • Audio commentary by writer/director Rian Johnson, actors Nora Zehetner and Noah Segan, producer Ram Bergman, production designer Jodie Tillen, and costume designer Michele Posch.
  • 8 deleted and extended scenes: The majority of these tidbits are sourced from the Sundance submission and Festival cuts. All are accompanied by introductions by Rian Johnson, with related behind-the-scenes photos and video.
  • The Inside Track — Casting the Roles of Laura and Dode: 2003 audition tapes for Laura’s Nora Zehetner and Dode’s Noah Segan.
  • Trailers: For Brick and other assorted Kino Lorber releases.

Kino has ported over all of the archival special features from Focus Features’ original 2006 DVD.* Unlike Kino’s other recent Blu-rays, there haven’t been other features compiled from international DVD/Blu-ray releases. It would have been amazing to see the Building Brick doc or interviews from other discs here, and fully round out this first-ever US Blu release with the behind-the-scenes material hinted at in other portions of the extras. That aside, all of these special features give a real sense at how much Brick was a scrappy little labor of love for its cast and crew, especially Johnson’s commentary and its revolving door of guest-star contributors. These special features were also missing from previous international iterations of Brick on Blu, and I’m grateful these were able to be revived for this release.

The film’s 4K restoration alone makes Kino’s disc of Brick an absolute must-buy. It’s rare for indies like Brick to get so much time and care put into a new transfer, especially one that manages to so wholly improve upon the original disc release. Especially in light of Johnson’s well-deserved Oscar nomination, Brick is a film worth revisiting and this disc is certainly worth your support.

*Well, almost all of them. One of my favorite easter eggs, the“Origami Master” short film made by Johnson growing up, is sadly missing from this disc. Holding onto my DVD for that one.

Brick is now available on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

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