The Brothers Bloom (PG-13) **½

 

Fanciful, funny crime caper marred by a dose of drama.

The Brothers Bloom
Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz and Mark Ruffalo.
 

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

The second film from writer-director Rian Johnson is just another story about con men in the same way Johnson's first film, Brick, was just another detective noir. In other words, The Brothers Bloom feels different from any crime caper you've ever seen, even though its machinations still revolve around con artists who play tricks on each other -- and the audience.

The novelty begins with the casting, which features Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo as the titular siblings, who since childhood have made a career of pulling elaborate cons on rich suckers, and Rachel Weisz as a wealthy, eccentric heiress and the brothers' latest target. None of the leads is particularly known for comedic talents, yet here they are in a movie that channels a fizzy, screwball vibe, and all three fare well with the demands of effervescent comedy. Ruffalo, too often cast in mopey, downbeat dramas, takes particularly well to the role of irrepressible scamp.

Except that Johnson, who likes to mix genres the way bartenders mix Mai Tais, isn't satisfied with just sticking with comedy. The Brothers Bloom is unrepentantly frothy and whimsical -- a character named Bang Bang, played by Rinko Kikuchi, appears throughout but utters only one word -- but Johnson also wants you to take it seriously.

But taking The Brothers Bloom seriously just isn't possible. These fanciful characters are wonderful creations, but they'd never be mistaken for real people. Johnson's attempt to inject drama into his scenario also drains a lot of the fun from the picture. The brothers' elaborate con grows increasingly complicated after one of the duo falls in love with the heiress. The ruse becomes so convoluted that the movie loses you. When the inevitable double-twist ending arrives, it lands with a thud, because you literally have no idea what's going on anymore.

Even after the plot has left you behind, you still watch The Brothers Bloom with a smile, because the actors are so engaging (Weisz turns her character's gradual emergence from her shell into a thing of beauty). But the overambitious Johnson settles on a late-act tragedy to give the movie heft, lest it float away on a cloud of giddiness. That decision, too, feels all wrong. Johnson is an undeniable talent, but The Brothers Bloom implies that he needs to relax and trust himself a little more.

Cast: Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi, Maximillian Schell, Robbie Coltrane.

Writer-director: Rian Johnson.

Producers: Ram Bergman, James D. Stern.

A Summit Entertainment release. Running time: 113 minutes. Vulgar language, brief violence, sexual situations, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: South Beach, Intracoastal; in Broward: Gateway; in Palm Beach: Shadowood, Palace, Delray Beach.

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