Brick’s tale of a missing girl double-crosses galore and murder in a high school setting is more than a little pretentious. It riffs on the film noir genre featuring its own head-scratching lingo that often puzzles more than it entertains. Our Sam Spade stand-in is Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose trouble starts when he gets a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie De Ravin). Seems after they broke up she fell in with a bad crowd and now she’s in over her head. After she disappears Brendan’s investigation has him sniffing out a major drug ring on campus with such curious baroque characters as The Pin (Lukas Haas)--who wears a cape and carries a cane but still lives with his mother--and Laura (Nora Zehetner)--a chic popular waif who offers to help but whom in classic noir tradition is not someone Brendan is sure he can trust. As the obsessive Brendan Levitt (TV’s Third Rock From the Sun) maintains a wry sense of humor as he endures the requisite beatings this kind of story demands. He also has a dogged drive to get to the bottom of things. We believe he’s capable of outsmarting the players involved but foolish enough to want to do it all on his own. Casting Lukas Haas as the mysterious Pin helps ensure that he’s never as imposing as the character thinks he is. Newcomer Nora Zehetner as the willowy inscrutable Nora manages to strike the only real noirish note in the entire ensemble helped in large part by her stylish retro wardrobe. Lost’s De Ravin once again adopts an American accent as damsel in distress Emily. With her long blond hair and enormous eyes she makes a haunting little girl lost. The direction is the real star of the film. Writer-director Rian Johnson has made a stylistically bold movie with some dazzling flourishes (it won an audience award at Sundance for “Best Original Vision”)--but much of the film stagnates due to odd pacing and that maddening lingo. Brick earns some unintentional laughs for poorly faked fistfights and some overenthusiastic Foley artists (the guys who provide sounds effects such as footsteps after the fact) but the film definitely picks up steam as it goes along.