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The Brothers Bloom

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The Brothers Bloom
Released on Friday, Jun 4 2010

The irony of most con movies is that, in the end, so much deceit leaves you feeling cheated. Not so The Brothers Bloom which stars Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo as the sibling scammers on a globetrotting mission to fleece Rachel Weisz's kooky heiress. Writer-director Rian Johnson, who put an inspired twist on old school film noir with Brick (2005), does a similar trick in this film; respecting the traditions of the heist caper whilst bringing it up to date for a savvier audience. There may be a few too many affectations, but it still pays off.

Abandoned as children, the Bloom brothers learned to live by their wits as seen in a hilarious comic-strip introduction featuring a cat in a roller-skate. That screwball energy sets the tone for a flash-forward twenty years later when the baby brother, known only as Bloom (Brody), has had enough with the fakery. He's been playing a part for so long that he doesn't know who he really is and wants to find out. In contrast, big brother Stephen (Ruffalo) lives for the joy of crafting elaborate stories to combat the boredom of real life. And so, the stage is set for 'One Last Job'.

They engineer a crash that brings Bloom into uncomfortably close contact with lonely little rich girl Penelope (Weisz). It's not a broken leg that unsettles him but the fact that he actually quite likes this socially stunted intellectual who only understands life through books. Just as Bloom seeks "an unwritten life", she longs to experience the world beyond novels and so he takes her on what she fancies to be a romantic escapade across Europe to smuggle a priceless antique. Stephen keeps tabs and they're also joined by mute explosives expert Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi) who lights the fuse for the most ostentatious scene of the film and one of the funniest.

An exotic and ever-changing backdrop adds to the epic scale, but even so, Johnson retains that rebel indie feel. He also edits with superb comic timing in a style reminiscent of the silent era, but he doesn't let the comedy undermine the drama between the characters. Brody is utterly endearing even as he lies to Penelope to get her to part with her fortune. He is the droopy-eyed embodiment of the tortured soul; torn between her and his brother. Weisz has the toughest job, making a very offbeat character seem vulnerable, but she does it by tapping into her inner child. The bond between Ruffalo and Brody is just as credible and moving, despite the dysfunction.

The final leg of their journey takes them to South America where there are so many twists and turns, it's like getting caught on a Mexican roundabout. A little patience is rewarded though and the rewards are greater because nobody is in it for the money. That said, Johnson is a clever writer and he pulls a couple of neatly plotted fast ones to satisfy the technically minded, but it's the way the outcome affects Bloom's relationship with his brother and the woman he loves which lifts the film a cut above the usual con flick. Like his brooding anti-hero, Johnson keeps one step ahead and, at the same time, wears his heart on his sleeve. It's tough not to fall for such charm.


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