Starring: Adrian Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie Coltrane

Director: Rian Johnson

Writer(s): Rian Johnson

Cinemtography: Steve Yedlin

Original Score: Nathan Johnson

Running Time: 114 Mins.

The Brothers Bloom has sat on a Hollywood shelf somewhere for 2 years awaiting its arrival on our shores, having taken director Rian Johnson 3 years to actually get round to directing again after his (now) cult classic debut Brick. Following up such a film is always difficult, Richard Kelly failed spectacularly in his follow up to Donnie Darko, Southland Tales, while John Hillcoat’s follow up to The Proposition was the lacklustre The Road, these are just two of the more recent examples so it is no surprise Rian Johnson took his time but given the added time it has taken to make its way here along with its almost non-existant take at the US box office, it would be safe to say that expectations were if not low, rather more on the wary side.

The problem Johnson faced is that Brick itself was as expertly and uniquely written as it was presented, the visuals punctuating the script and giving us that all too rare experience of something new in multiplexes. Coupled with a rather excellent turn from Joseph Gordon-Levitt amidst a great ensemble of new actors it was always going to be a hard act to follow, to give something equally as genius while being different enough to prove Johnson as more than just a one trick pony. Suffice to say in his attempts to do just that he at once fails and succeeds for the first hour The Brothers Bloom, almost, hits the highs of Brick’s ingenuity but, retaining the director/writer’s quirks while adding something unique to a well worn tale, however in its latter half the plot begins to unravel…

So to the good, and what good it is, Johnson clearly has an eye for casting and Brody and Ruffalo as the titular brothers are a match made in heaven, believable as siblings and inhabiting characters that are only ever found in the minds of the quirkiest directors, Johnson is a master, based on the evidence of this and Brick, of creating hyper stylised worlds a la the Coen brothers or Wes Anderson. Unlike Anderson though, whose films all seem to occur in a similarly unique place the world that The Brothers Bloom inhabit is so different from that which Johnson created for Brick yet it still retains the same visual markers.

The opening prologue that sets up the plot, one brother, Bloom (Brody), falls for the “mark” of a con while the other brother Stephen (Ruffalo) scams his way to a fortune, with a great sense of whimsy that shows each brother for his true colours and, hopefully, demonstrates we aren’t in for just another con man movie, which rings true for a while. We get to know the brothers and the other crazy characters such as Bang Bang the mute Japanese explosive’s expert and Robbie Coltrane’s bizarre Belgian curator, while Rachel Weisz gamely throws herself into the pivotal role of the “mark” on the inevitable one last job the brothers embark upon.

So far so quirky, and great for it, but as the film reaches its midpoint Johnson seems at a loss at how to tie up the story without resorting to cliché and in trying to avoid that he ends up going round in circles with plot and characters meaning they are built up with very little to do. The inevitable romance that burgeons between Weisz and Brody is sweet and realised well especially given the excellent turn from Weisz showing a different side to her ample skills as an actress but this is not enough and as the story meanders back and forth between double-cross after double-cross you lose the empathy you had for anyone and will be left bored, thankfully the finale somewhat redeems the film and reminds you why it was so great to begin with if not consistently throughout and if nothing else Johnson’s visual flourishes will stave off boredom at the plot.

VERDICT

The Brothers Bloom is a commendably different follow-up to Brick in that it carves out a uniquely great start for itself, even if it loses its way at the mid-point as Johnson doesn’t quite know where to go with his quirky take on a well-worn genre.  

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