The Brothers Bloom - Blu-ray Review

'like the world of Brick this is a place where the dialogue is sharp and fast, the humour is generally cold and black and a Lamborghini can exist in the same place and time as a steamer boat'

If you're in the UK and you've taken the time to search out The Brothers Bloom then, odds are, you already knew about director Rian Johnson from his previous film, Brick. With a limited cinema run (very limited: Box Office Mojo doesn't register any takings from it) and a release date some two years behind its year of filming, it's fair to say that Johnson's follow up to his ludicrously brilliant 2005 film has seen its fair share of problems on its way to these shores.

If you're a Brick fan though, the opening twenty minutes alone will probably be worth whatever effort you went through to secure a copy (although this is now thankfully as easy as clicking on to Play or adding it to your Lovefilm). The universe Johnson crafts here is resolutely the same uber-geek, sub-societal construct as the one he crafted in the previous film. Indeed, after a couple of cameos in a club scene, there's an argument to be made that it is actually the very same universe, where characters happen to cross on their way through Johnson's aesthetic dalliances. Either way, Brothers' world, like the world of Brick, is a place where the dialogue is sharp and fast, the humour is generally cold and black and a Lamborghini can exist in the same place and time as a steamer boat. Nobody raises an eyebrow at the brother's unique sense of dress and the detached, almost mystical, narration from Ricky Jay feels entirely in-keeping.

Like Brick then, Johnson secures a believable yet unique world which is easy to fall in love with. A pity then that he can't match this with his story. Early moments of true charm as the older Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) convinces the younger Bloom (Adrien Brody) back for one last con are balanced well with the developing love interest of Penelope (Rachel Weisz) and the madcap antics of associate Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi). Further in though, Johnson expunges a bloated and convoluted narrative which wastes all of the charm it spent so long creating in the first half on meaningless interactions with meaningless characters and distinctly out-of-place set pieces.

In and amongst all the multi-layered narrative Johnson deserves praise for his well-written, strong, female leads and Weisz and Kikuchi excel with his script almost all the way through, Weisz in particular looking arguably as strong as she ever has. Unfortunately, this makes it ironic that his Brothers Bloom fare less well. Ruffalo, who seems like he can do anything when you watch The Kids Are All Right, apparently can't do the level of ebullient charm needed in his conman and he struggles to inject Stephen with even half of the energy and magnetic attraction the role claims he has. Brody is marginally better but his character's self-imposed emotional inertia isn't needed for the script to function and lends the film a rather more glum air than it deserves.

Just worth your effort but only just and it is just that: an effort, only this time without the unique rewards of the director's previous offering.

Look further...

'Johnson does seem to have borrowed some stylistic elements from the world of Wes Anderson... [but] the brothers are a lot warmer and instantly likeable than any characters from Wes Anderson's world, and he has never been able to create a female character as complex and rich as Penelope.' - Slacker Cinema, 4/5


  1. Hmmm, we have rather differing opinions on this one. 'Brothers Bloom' played at the 2008 Toronto International Film festival (yeah, it was that long ago...) and had a theatrical release where I live in the summer of 2009. I really loved the movie, especially the interaction between the two brothers. It ended up on my 'best of 2009' list by the end of that year.

    Special props to Rinko Kikuchi, who is mesmerizing as Bang Bang. Rarely has a character who doesn't have dialogue (except for one dirty word) said so much with facial expressions.

  2. I saw it in cinema, and thought it was kind of awesome. Rinko Kikuchi, anyway.

  3. edgar - I really wanted to like it but the second half in particular just lost me. Johnson treads the line between being innovatively clever and too clever for his own good and for me, in this film, he crossed over to the dark side. Glad you dug it though and I agree about Kikuchi - having a character without dialogue is an obvious challenge for any actor and she handled it brilliantly.

    Simon - Again, glad you liked it! Don't think I've seen a review/comment that hasn't mentioned her yet!

  4. The first time that I watched this movie, I thought that it was charming, but left things unexplained. If he would have included some of the deleted scenes, the story would have made more sense. Having now watched all of the deleted scenes, I think the film is brilliant.

    1. I must admit, I've not seen the deleted scenes. I'll definitely revisit this at some point so I'll have to look them over then.