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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Brothers Bloom is a see-through con

click to enlarge HEIST AND LOWS: Bloom (Adrien Brody, left), Penelope (Rachel Weisz) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo)
  • HEIST AND LOWS: Bloom (Adrien Brody, left), Penelope (Rachel Weisz) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo)

Buying a ticket for a movie about con men is like placing a bet in a game of three-card monte. On some level, you expect to be hoodwinked, and can’t count on winning your money back. Instead, you pay for a sleight-of-hand demonstration, so the hustler (or the filmmaker) can dupe you as long as he's got the skills.

Where the vast majority of con movies tries to bamboozle the audience, The Brothers Bloom seems intent on not tricking viewers. Writer/director Rian Johnson focuses more closely on explaining the long con and the dynamics between the title characters, which is a lot less fun. Even though you see through Johnson’s schemes, Bloom’s ingratiating cast and sunny tone make the film a harmless diversion.

Mark Ruffalo is the elder brother, Stephen, a perpetually cheerful planner who concocts elaborate swindles. His younger brother Bloom (Adrien Brody) forever plays the leading role in the scams, as his innately sensitive nature elicits the trust of their wealthy marks. Bloom tires of taking advantage and playacting, until the brothers’ conflicts resemble the tension between a reluctant actor and a demanding writer/stage manager. “I’ve only lived my life in the roles you write for me,” Bloom complains, and Brody’s sad-eyed performance wins the audience’s sympathies.

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(Photo by Slobodan Pikula/Summit Entertainment)

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