It's a lively and lovely cross between David Mamet and Wes Anderson. It's also not as smart as it thinks it is.
Writer-director Rhian Johnson has set his bar high; after an impressive debut with the oh-so-clever high school noir, Brick, he tackles that trickiest of genre flicks: the breezy con-man thriller. The problem is that, in a story filled with witty triple-cross schemes, once you say "con man" the audience is in on the jig. So, you have to either delight them or keep 'em guessing. Until its final scene, Brothers Bloom does neither.
But it is a decent ride. Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody play sibling hucksters who construct elaborate cons, complete with dramatic arcs and literary allusions. But Brody wants out. So with "one last con" they focus on daffy millionaire heiress and shut-in Rachel Weisz. Romance rears its head, the twists mount and it mostly goes where you'd expect.
The whole movie's a con, really, with period affectations, screwball badinage and gorgeous locales filled with ridiculously eccentric characters. Johnson gets big points because this isn't an exercise in hokum.
What Johnson does best is romance; hence the bubbly Rachel Weisz, who gives her every scene the snap and pop of inventiveness. And like her impossibly multitalented character (juggler-musician-photographer-karate master-epileptic), the movie isn't short of great ideas. Johnson, unfortunately, isn't skilled enough to make them all work. Or to make you care.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.