The Brothers Bloom Review

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The Brothers Bloom is the writer/director of Brick's second big-screen outing, and will feature a family of conmen who encounter some unexpected difficulties when taking on their final job...


Writer-director Rian Johnson’s first feature, Brick, falls into the category of cult films whose cults are so exclusive, their creators don’t find it easy to make follow-ups. It took three years for Johnson to get another film made, and two years for that to make it to the UK — despite a hot cast, festival buzz, and the always-popular caper genre. Like Brick, The Brothers Bloom takes place in a hat-wearing world defined by movie conventions — here, everything from the Preston Sturges of The Lady Eve to the Ridley Scott of Matchstick Men, with mandatory nods to The Sting and The Grifters — with an indie, eccentric sensibility which echoes certain moods of Wes Anderson or the Coen brothers.

Most films about confidence men play the same tricks: will the partners try to con each other? Is the seemingly naive mark on the point of pulling a con of their own? The Brothers Bloom does too, but so often and with so many inside-out turns, it’s as impossible to see through as a find-the-lady scam. It’s all set up in a long childhood prologue, narrated by Ricky Jay, as the older Stephen devises his first con to help and exploit his brother Bloom — paralysingly shy unless given a role to play — and takes failure into account by setting up a fallback profit opportunity.

Then, with Bloom insisting he wants out of the game, the plot is set in motion. Since the Brothers Bloom M. O. involves the sensitive Bloom becoming emotionally involved while the calculating Stephen runs the con, there’s always a danger Bloom will really switch sides — especially when the target is as appealing as Rachel Weisz’s fantastically rich, randomly brilliant chaos freak, so clearly Stephen’s polar opposite you have to figure he’s matched her with Bloom for several reasons we don’t yet see.

Johnson has a knack for creating worlds that seem inhabited, with vivid walk-on characters who could sustain spin-offs — Rinko Kikuchi’s gamine explosives expert, who knows only three words of English, “Campari” and “fuck me”, is a gem — and writes so densely that every throwaway line pays off (“The perfect con is one where everyone involved gets just what they wanted”).

Perhaps you can be too cool for school and too clever for a multiplex, but if you’re willing to go along with this, you’ll enjoy being fooled so much that you won’t mind it’s all a trick.