The films of Rian Johnson

2006
Brick 67
[ This high school film noir might be too clever by half, it’s stylish but not that stylish, and the cast is not quite as turned on as it should be, though Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes a damn fine melancholy/cynical (self-proclaimed) detective. The story of a misanthropic teenage loner who investigates the mysterious death of his ex-girlfriend, who’d gotten involved with a clique of dope dealers, “Brick” is kind of a cross between “The Rules of Attraction” and “Memento”, or maybe a less comedic “The Big Lebowski”. The labyrinthine plot, snappy dialogue, shady characters, femmes fatales and sudden bursts of violence all work on their own, but the sum is somehow not as great as its parts. I could equally see people making this into a cult film or being annoyed by it. Favorite scene: the high school twist on the classic hand-in-your-gun-and-badge scene, where the vice-principal played by Richard Roundtree threatens Gordon-Levitt with being suspended from school if his investigation keeps drawing heat. ]

2009
The Brothers Bloom 70
[ Mischievous Mark Ruffalo and melancholy Adrien Brody star as Stephen and Bloom, two orphan siblings who have been making it as grifters around the world since their youth. But when we catch up with Bloom at age 35, he confides to his brother that he’s tired of perpetually playing roles in the elaborate schemes Stephen orchestrates; he’d like to enjoy an “unwritten life” for once. So the brothers set out to do one last job, one involving “eccentric shut-in rich bitch” Penelope (an adorably quirky Rachel Weisz) and other colourful characters such as creepy Belgian curator Max (Robbie Coltrane) and devious Russian mobster Diamond Dog (Maximilian Schell), not to mention the brothers’ faithful Japanese assistant Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi)… Along the way, Penelope and Bloom fall in love – or is that still part of the con? Between the Ricky Jay narration and the Dirk Diggler-style exploding logo, you get a clear sense during the film’s extended prologue that Rian Johnson is a big Paul Thomas Anderson fan. Furthermore, the “Brick” director’s sophomore effort seems influenced by the films of Wes Anderson, the Coen brothers and of course David Mamet, the granddaddy of con man movies. No doubt that the guy has taste, but one can’t help but ask the question: where’s Rian Johnson in all of that? I guess we’ll have to wait until he makes a few more flicks to find that out. For now, we can still appreciate this derivative but very entertaining, whimsical and cleverly crafted movie, in which storytelling and mise en scène are at the forefront, both for the filmmaker and for the characters. ]

2012
Looper 90
[ review ]

2017
Star Wars: The Last Jedi