Rian Johnson’s comedy about a pair of brilliant Jewish con artists with one last great scam up their sleeves is a charming fairytale about fiction itself. Mark Ruffalo’s elaborate stings are so beautifully conceived that it is difficult to know where real life ends and make-believe begins. Stephen (Ruffalo) maps out every crooked scenario like a romantic story. He paints the exotic scenery – St Petersburg, Prague, New Jersey, Mexico, Montenegro – and fleshes out the elegant parts that each brother plays to psychological perfection.
In one of the first scenes we see his 35-year-old younger brother, Bloom (played by Adrien Brody), taking a fake bullet in the chest from an emotional “mark” (victim) who doesn’t realise just how neatly he has been set up. The irony is that Bloom feels imprisoned by Stephen’s ingenious deceptions. His personality feels as if it is a figment of his brother’s imagination. Bloom aches for the uncertain freedom of “an unwritten life” – a future that hasn’t been scripted by his witty, flamboyant brother. The existential comedy lies in just how impossible this is for Brody’s fearful hero. No matter where he runs, he cannot escape his genial brother or their mute oriental sidekick, Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), whose fondness for nitroglycerine punctuates the story.
Johnson’s film is a playful piece of cinema that takes off like a magic carpet when Bloom and Stephen lure an impossibly lonely heiress, Penelope (Rachel Weisz), into parting with $1 million. Bloom inevitably falls in love with this surreal and fabulously eccentric princess who refuses to heed any of Bloom’s warnings not to trust him. The preposterous con involves car accidents, exotic train journeys in period costume on the Orient Express, half a dozen European cities and strange run-ins with ghosts from the past.
Most of these wild characters have only the most tenuous relevance to the plot. Robbie Coltrane’s Belgian museum curator, and international smuggler, is madly fashioned from Hercule Poirot. Max Schell’s one-eyed Diamond Dog – who mentored the brothers like Fagin and who lost his left eye in a rapier fight – is like a villain from Sinbad the Sailor. The comic tension between Brody and Ruffalo, and latterly Brody and Weisz, is the real pleasure. What’s exasperating about the film is the lack of anywhere realistic for Brody’s melancholic hero to escape to.
Unlike Johnson’s debut feature Brick – which cleverly imported the classic tropes of film noir to a high-school murder – The Brothers Bloom is a little too cute and knowing for its own good. The burlesque rhythms and contorted twists are ultimately too fanciful and, at times, totally incomprehensible. But any film that can summon shades from movies as disparate as The Darjeeling Limited, Murder on the Orient Express and The Sting is not short of mischief or ambition.
Source: Times Online