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The Brothers Bloom

Have You Been Conned?

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Rian Johnson achieved cult status with his low-budget take on classic, straightforward film noir in Brick. Not only did it have a great story but it was also set in a contemporary high school, the last place you’d expect to have a high stakes detective story. So as with any blooming writer/director, the bar is set high for his follow up effort. Fortunately for Johnson, and fans of Brick, he proves that even with a Hollywood budget he can still deliver one hell of a film.

The Brothers Bloom is sharp, witty and illuminates fantastic performances by talented actors. And as with many great films, it will definitely command and reward repeat viewings. It’s a film that will leave a grin on your face even if you’re not quite sure what you just saw.

Unlike Brick, The Brothers Bloom is not as heavily indebted to the noir tradition but that doesn’t mean Johnson completely abandons the style. Instead of following an amateur detective, we are now following the extraordinary lives of two brothers who happen to be successful conmen. Brothers Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) fall into a life of crime as a way to escape their troubled upbringing. While Stephen, the eldest, sees the life as a way to create new stories and identities, Bloom exceedingly feels lost in the lies. As Bloom wants out Stephen convinces him to assist with one last con. The dynamic relationship between Brody and Ruffalo truly astounding and they are able to convey a complicated, yet loving, relationship through action alone.

Their final con revolves around a lonely yet beautiful heiress, Penelope (Rachel Weisz), to an incredible amount of money. Stephen figures she could use some adventure and Bloom draws her into their newest tale, hoping to take some of her inconceivable wealth. Once the con begins truth and the story Stephen has created become blurred, even for the characters involved. And that’s the beauty of this film. Johnson forces the viewer to be the detective in this story. We must decide what’s true and what’s fiction. We are the detectives and we are seeking the truth, only we don’t have access to the characters. We only have what is presented before us and we must make conclusions based on just that.

Brick was a no-nonsense detective film with bits of humor thrown in, mainly due to the high school setting, but with The Brothers Bloom Johnson creates a darkly humorous film in the tradition of Hal Ashby and the more contemporary Wes Anderson. There are moments of true sincerity and there are moments of sidesplitting humor. Much of the humor derives from the great “silent” partner of the brothers, Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi). Even without speaking Kikuchi creates an undeniable presence as the perfect complement to the brothers who’s specialty is apparently anything they ask of her. Her character creates a depth that is evident throughout the film. Johnson creates a picture that, like Stephen’s cons, is a world of his own. You may recognize certain landmarks, but you’ve entered Johnson’s world and it’s a place you won’t want to leave.