The Brothers Bloom
The Blooms grow up to be globetrotting fraudsters from a bygone era – executing complex and ingenious con tricks on their rich, hapless victims.


2 October 2010

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Plot summary

The Brothers Bloom are the best con men in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue. Now they've decided to take on one last job - showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life with a romantic adventure that takes them around the world.

Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo star as the brothers of the title in this charming but flawed offering from writer and director Rian Johnson. The boys are orphans – raised by a succession of foster parents while, at the same time, honing their skills as con men. They grow up to be globetrotting fraudsters from a bygone era – executing complex and ingenious con tricks on their rich, hapless victims. Older brother Stephen (Ruffalo) is the mastermind, meticulously planning ‘the script’ for each detailed operation, while younger brother ‘Bloom’ (Brody) has grown increasingly wary of constantly pretending to be something he’s not and yearns to go straight. Stephen persuades Bloom to take part in one final con, choosing rich heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz) for their final sting. Reluctantly, Bloom agrees to ingratiate himself into Penelope’s life, only to find himself falling in love with her eccentric charms. Accompanied by silent sidekick Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), the four set off on an adventure that takes them from Montenegro to New Jersey to St Petersburg and Mexico… but who is conning who?

The Brothers Bloom bounces along with gusto, and Johnson has worked hard to create an oddball criminal caper full of beguiling mavericks. He’s clearly been influenced by the works of Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie). However, the end result never fully convinces you to suspend your disbelief and embrace the plot’s wackier elements. Ruffalo and Brody make for an engaging double act, but the characterisation remains slight. There’s a whiff of The Avengers about the plot’s execution, particularly in the use of the near mute Bang Bang. Like Steed and Emma Peel, you might want to hang out with these people but you never truly believe that such characters exist. Although mention of cell phones roots the action in the modern day, the brothers could have been plucked from the 1950s in their attire and ambitions. No sophisticated internet scams for these two when a rich heiress can be convinced to smuggle priceless antique books. Weisz’s Penelope (and how 60s is that name?) is kooky and one-dimensional, with all the credibility and depth of a fairytale princess.

The pacing of this old-fashioned romp remains tight, and the 113-minute duration rarely drags. However, this is not The Sting, and you may find yourself hard-pressed to remember the story or characters by the time you’ve got home from the cinema.