So “The Brothers Bloom” is the second film of Rian Johnson and as his other two films it plays with the tropes of a well established genre, and this time the genre is caper films. More specifically the story deals with two brothers, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody), who are extraordinary con-men and their scheme to swindle a obscenely rich and complicated woman (Rachel Weisz) by performing the perfect con in the shape of a romantic globe-trotting adventure. However Bloom, who wants out of the game, falls for their target.
That’s the simple set up of the story, however once the film takes off from there it gradually starts falling apart and drowning in contrivances and a convoluted plot and twists that at a certain point I felt like the movie was rewriting the core motivations of its characters just so it can stay one step ahead of the audience. The movie was so busy wrangling out of shape a story that should have been quite simple only in order to arrive to its surprising ending. But in this process it forgets the important stuff, to stay engaging and to at least be easy to follow.
An element of all films of this kind is to have that witty surprise at the end of the film but that does not mean that you have to sacrifice your audience’s emotional engagement. Many successful caper films keep their audience engaged through a secondary plot that serves as misdirection while the twist of the central plot is being prepared and wrangled in to submission. Like in “Ocean’s 11” the misdirection is the plot with George Clooney’s and Julia Roberts’ character which is also the films core emotional story, while in the background the team is preparing to rob the casino. Or in “Matchstick Men” you have Nicolas Cage’s con-man training his newly returned daughter for in the arts of the confidence game, while in actuality he is her mark all along. Simple misdirection that makes sense throughout the film and it is used as the emotional hook of the film.
But there is no such storytelling misdirection in “The Brothers Bloom” nor anything resembling it. So all we see is the bare bones of the raw plot and the film compensates with a series of contrived twists that have no real emotional value and once the film came to its oh so clever ending all I could do is scoff. Because even if I saw what the film was doing, and it was obviously smart, I simply did not care anymore.
And if anything this makes “The Brothers Bloom” a frustrating film because the opening is so great, it's a fantastic little short film in it's own right and the first act of the film follows suit. But then the characters are charming as well, and the cast is perfect (Rinko Kikuchi is a scene stealer) and the look and feel of it all is spot on for a hipster revisionist caper film. There is potential here, however it fails for me in its attempt to be a good caper film, especially a revisionist one. Rian Johnson shows an understanding of the tone of this genre as it has all the main ingredients for an outstanding genre film of this type, but I feel that with “The Brothers Bloom” he’s like the high-school overachiever kid that fails to see the tree from the forest simply because he’s trying too damn hard. It's a passable film but thankfully he goes on to better things.
Rachel Weisz - Penelope
Adrien Brody - Bloom
Mark Ruffalo - Stephen
Rinko Kikuchi - Bang Bang
Robbie Coltrane - Curator
Maximilian Schell -Diamond Dog