The film Brick, directed by Rian Johnson, has aspects of both classical and neo-noir. The film, although it works to convey a classical feel by its choices in lighting and character development, stays true to neo-noir style in that the Noir Hero, Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is motivated not with selfish intent, but solely out of the interest of the girl that he loves. It is true, however, that the ending of the film adheres much more to classical standards: the Femme Fatale (the coy and dangerous Laura, played by Nora Zehetner) is fittingly apprehended for her crimes, and the Noir Hero, Brendan, also pays a heavy price in return.
Cast as the Noir Hero, Brendan scours the underworld for clues as to what happened to his precious Emily (Emilie De Ravin), and soon gets caught up in a world he cannot control. Unlike the typical Noir Hero, however, Brendan has all the plays figured out, and anticipates the movements of Tug, Dode, and the Pin, the other key players in this web of drug-fueled mystery. Even though Brendan is, in a way, serving his own agenda, he is not without compassion and a sense of empathy for the situation at hand: when Tug is beating the Pin nearly to death after their negotiations turn sour, Brendan begins to turn away in the interest of self-preservation, yet he gives the Pin a chance to defend himself by kicking a weapon to him.
The political motives on the film are difficult to define, as the film does not seem to have a grander purpose beyond that of an intense character study and analysis of motive. Brick is much more egocentric than most classic noir films, focusing on its characters and exploring their fears, desires, and agendas before expanding outward into a theme or message. With its stylistic approach to the lighting and story, and the deeper glimpse into the inner working of its characters, and above all its feel of inevitability, Brick can be placed easily into the genre of neo-noir: it is true that Brendan narrowly escapes punishment from the law, but by the end of the film he has not escaped the punishment that he himself will serve out every day in knowing that he risked all for an end that did not ultimately justify the steep price he paid.