The Brothers Bloom Reviews
Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and younger sibling Bloom (Adrien Brody) are a couple of con-men who criss cross the globe shafting the unwary. Their latest mark, however, is something new: wealthy recluse Penelope (Rachel Weisz) who, having spent her life mastering a miscellany of random skills (break dancing, banjo plucking, juggling chainsaws), is only too happy to follow them and their mute munitions expert 'Bang-Bang' (Rinko Kikuchi) to Prague where a priceless antique is ripe for the taking.
With this second feature it looks like Rian Johnson enjoys a good puzzling story. His debut was full of twists and turns and more than a nod or two to crime writers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. This time he employs a subtext with nods to several classic literary novels and authors. The references are subtle but cleverly dropped into his tangled and intricate flim-flam story. Added to which are bags of visual flourishes and fine performances by the four leads. However, what is a strong and satisfying hustle soon becomes a bit too clever for it's own good and as it draws to a close it ends up tying itself in knots. Leaving us with an unsatisfactory (and unnecessary) conclusion. Getting there is loads of fun though and Rian Johnson is shaping up to be a more than competent new director.
Four fun, enjoyable and sharply dressed characters play out their scams in an impressive and stylish addition to the Bunco genre. It's just a shame it cons itself out of a convincing ending.
What follows is an artistic mess, built on a shoddy premise that lacks depth, realism and any emotional investment in the characters. Adrien Brody, in particular is as bland as white on white, and while he's supposed to be having this emotional struggle concerning falling for his mark - you never get the feeling that he's doing anything more than reciting lines.
The character of the mark is ridiculous and puts the film at a huge disadvantage as so much of the story involves her and reaction that the brothers have towards her. There are attempts at humor (if you can believe it, in what should be a tight how to do it con artist film), and I do mean "attempts". They are not funny and seriously detract from any "feel" the film had going for it.
The photography is well done throughout, and often far outstrips the script that for all its inventiveness and the intricacies of the cons themselves, too often falls on its own sword due to bad direction and bad ideas.
You can't blame Mark Ruffalo though. He plays the older brother with a worldly sense and like Robbie Coltrane in a limited role, rises above the material. The only charactor who is well written, and a joy to watch, is the whimsical "munitions expert" Bang-Bang, a quirky oriental, who late in the film, for no apparant reason, sings a tortured version of "Sleeping" a tune well covered by Lydia Pense and Cold Blood - hmmm, maybe the director was trying to tell us something.... naw.
Towards the end of the film, where everyone is backstabbing everyone else and you are led to believe that every situation is just part of an elaborate con - and that everyone's motives should be looked upon in that light, I started to think that perhaps Johnson's directorial vision was to take his material and intentionally NOT give any visual or acting clues - as if trying to leave it to the audience to discern whether or not someone is conning someone else. Me, I know the con and who was doing the conning - it's Johnson - and if there is a joke in the film - I also know that said joke is on the audience.
This movie becomes entangled in the ambitious web of its own creation. Most harmfully director Rain Johnson drops focus on the sparring brothers and their unreal life of lies, setting sail for the more regular climes of romance, double cross, and Euro-tastic locations. Were it not for the stock shifts, we'd be talking an instant cult classic.
In every shot is impeccably framed, it's as if Hal Ashby shot The Sting. I liked Rinko Kikuchi's supernatural character Bang Bang, a sidekick of Blooms, her nickname is because she likes explosives, and she doesn't speak a single line of dialogue. She's kind like the Looney Tunes characters.