Image from IMP Awards
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
If I had to use one word to describe this film, it would be 'whimsical'. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo play two brothers, Bloom and Stephen, who are con men. Bloom is the chief protagonist in the cons who has to go out there and execute them, with Ruffalo being the 'storyteller' who chiefly works his magic behind the scenes. Also alongside them during their capers is the enigmatic Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), their demolitions expert.
After a brief and charming prologue covering their itinerant childhoods and how they got in to the con business, the story proper begins. They've been at it for a while and Bloom wants out of the business; he's tired of the phony life he's leading, but Stephen convinces him to stick around for one last job. That job is Penelope (Rachel Weisz), a rich eccentric loner. Stephen creates a narrative for Bloom to act out - it's a long con designed to sweep Penelope off her feet and make her feel like part of an adventure, and in the process part her from her money. The con takes them globe trotting and along the way Bloom starts to actually fall for Penelope.
Rian Johnson's last film, 'Brick', was his breakthrough, a high school noir with snappy dialogue that deservedly earned him major kudos. His sophomore effort is radically different - it's bright and vibrant and quirky, but it still has the same genuine sense of danger and high stakes that made 'Brick' so engaging. It also has a similarly twisty plot, with cons within cons that approach head spinning levels. Plot heavy though it may be, characters are the film's focus, and in that respect Johnson succeeds admirably in giving his larger than life protagonists a sense of believability that transcends the quirkiness of the premise (much like a Wes Anderson film).
Brody is decent in what is ostensibly the lead role - I'm not a fan but he acquits himself well. Mark Ruffalo is terrific as the elder brother, appearing fun and relaxed and in complete control while possibly capable of violence if and when required. Rachel Weisz's role as Penelope isn't as well developed as the brothers but she infuses the character with a sense of enthusiasm and charm that is endearing.
It's a fun film that has a sense of melancholy about it, and also an element of darkness and danger simmering beneath the surface. The con is implausible but that's the nature of the story, and if you're willing to give in to the film's style there is much to appreciate and enjoy. Johnson proves himself to be more than a one hit wonder and I'm looking forward to his future offerings.