The schemes of con man Stephen Bloom are elaborately constructed – “like Russians write novels, full of story arcs and symbolism” – and deliver the kind of ending that satisfies everyone involved. Writer-director Rian Johnson clearly identifies with the character: Stephen’s sentiments are but one of the many ways in which Johnson establishes a parallel between films themselves and the intricate con at the center of The Brothers Bloom. The metaphor he builds will give the analytically-minded much to consider once the end credits roll – but it doesn’t hurt that the film’s well-plotted globetrotting adventure is a delight to watch that features a satisfying resolution, both for its characters and its audiences.
The Brothers Bloom focuses on the attempts of the younger titular sibling (Adrian Brody) to leave the con game – attempts which are complicated by the demands of older brother and partner-in-crime Stephen (Mark Ruffalo). The inevitable “final job”: bilking a fortune out of wealthy recluse Penelope (Rachel Weisz). Of course, it’s never that easy – but what could have been a hackneyed storyline evolves into an original screwball comedy with a film noir heart. Despite quirkiness, that heart beats with real emotion. As good cinematic con men should, Brody and Ruffalo sell their brotherly bond, while Weisz’s performance places Penelope at the film’s tumultuous emotional center. Creative mastermind Johnson is just as deserving of accolades – not only for avoiding a sophomore slump following his 2005 debut, Brick, but also for treating audiences to a fun film that doesn’t underestimate their intelligence.