The Brothers Bloom
dir-scr Rian Johnson
with Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie Coltrane, Maximilian Schell, Zachary Gordon, Max Records, Andy Nyman, Nora Zehetner, Noah Segan, Ricky Jay
release US 15.May.09, UK 4.Jun.10
08/US 1h49
The Brothers Bloom
Cheer up, bro: Brody and Ruffalo

weisz kikuchi coltrane
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Brothers Bloom Witty and wilfully wacky, this offbeat adventure is good fun to watch, even if we can never quite get in sync with its peculiar rhythms. But since it's about con men, we can look forward to some good twists.

Bloom and Stephen (Brody and Ruffalo) are brothers who grew up in a string of foster homes and taught themselves the art of the sting, which usually kicks off with Bloom befriending a woman. But since he falls in love every time, Bloom wants out. Stephen convinces him to do one last job with their partner Bang Bang (Kikuchi), and their mark is eccentric, epileptic millionaire Penelope (Weisz). Not only does Bloom fall for her on cue, but she proves to be a lot feistier than they expect.

The film kicks off with a zany look at the brothers at 10 and 13 (played by Gordon and Records), with rhyming narration and camera trickery, plus their formula for how to run a con in 15 easy steps. And after jumping 25 years later, this is exactly how the film continues, with whizzy cinematography and colourful production design, random comedy bits and some hilarious punchlines. The problem is that, beyond the general interpersonal drama, there's not much subtext.

Obviously, this is an above-average cast, and each actor finds depth amid the whirling silliness. Weisz is especially good, constantly surprising us with her unpredictable character. Kikuchi is sparky and often hysterically funny. And Brody and Ruffalo find strong sibling chemistry ("Don't fall for her!"), even as the film's plot follows a fairly typical rom-com structure before spinning off into a series of false endings and twisty climaxes.

Writer-director Johnson (BRICK) creates a remarkable visual style as the story darts between Mexico, New Jersey, Tokyo, Montenegro and St Petersburg. Each scene is packed with visual and verbal wit, and it feels intriguingly timeless, as characters dress like it's the 1960s, drive a 1970s Cadillac, take a ship across the Atlantic and a steam train from Greece to Prague. Along the way, the film captures the joy of the confidence game and a freewheeling sense of adventure. But it leaves us feeling like we've just spent two hours in a small room with a hyperactive child.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 27.Oct.08 lff

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall