"Two years ago, right before the big summer movie onslaught, a small movie from America made the most of a momentary lull in the release schedules. That film was Rian Johnson's Brick, a film noir set in a San Clemente high school that ingeniously turned genre convention on its head. In place of a Sam Spade-style private eye there was a loner called Brendan (played by the underrated Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on the trail of his dead girlfriend's killer or killers, and the femme fatale was a cheerleader with brains, working from a razor-sharp script peppered with rich slang that had to be explained to US cinemagoers before they went in. Followers of Johnson's career will know that this film is The Brothers Bloom, a conman movie-slash-road movie travelling to every corner of the globe, in which the titular brothers – Stephen and Bloom – roam the world carrying out the most elaborate heists, using actors, props and intricate plots crafted by the eldest (Stephen). And though that sounds ominously close to every director's sophomore effort – ever noticed how second movies by Americans focus on travel, cultural differences and hotels? (Pulp Fiction ticks some of those boxes, but Lost In Translation is the daddy) – Johnson's is actually a more ambitious affair, in which the scenery, paradoxically, is almost incidental to the story. And, when you have a cast that includes Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Babel's Rinko Kikuchi, there's plenty to keep you focused on that.The second time round, I saw it more for what it is: it's a love story. It's also a story about stories, and both these things are laid out in the prologue of the movie, in which magician Ricky Jay, in rhyming couplets, explains how the orphaned brothers became practitioners of their art: as children, Stephen (Ruffalo) would invent elaborate plans that made them a bit of ready cash but, more importantly, would allow the introverted Bloom (Brody) to make friends. After the credits, the film takes us to the present day (well, sort of). The brothers have just pulled off one of their labyrinthine cons, and there's a swinging party in Berlin
(look out for a very cool string of Brick cameos, including an unrecognisable Dode and the film's clearly terrified producer,
Ram Bergman). It should be a time for celebration, but Bloom is down and wants out – again. Because it seems there's a cycle here, but when Stephen does his usual pep talk, the old magic isn't there any more: Bloom really does want out this time. So Stephen strikes a deal. They'll do one last con, taking on a batty New Jersey millionairess named Penelope (Weisz) and drawing her into a fake world of smugglers, where the goal is to steal a priceless book from a hidden chamber in Prague. As Stephen puts it, “The best con is when everybody gets what they want.” And on this adventure, Bloom gets the girl, the girl gets a life and Stephen gets the money.
To say too much about this film – and, to be honest, the trailer gives quite a lot away already – would be to rob it of its surprises. It's a film that draws you in, and in a funny way it's quite challenging. Just as Brick dared you to get involved in its world of hipster jargon and cool-school cliques, so The Brothers Bloom makes no bones about its eccentricities: the boys in their Popeye Doyle hats, the sudden appearance of a real-life Fagin, and, best of all, the gorgeous Kikuchi as Bang-Bang, the brothers' mute, explosives-obsessed sidekick. Kikuchi seems to have walked straight out of a lost '60s pop-art bubblegum classic, and her presence is likely to divide audiences in the way Brick's patois did. But even if such flourishes seem overly stylised, the film has a card up its sleeve, figuratively and literally. As effortlessly as it seems to be unfurling, The Brothers Bloom is actually exerting a strange influence on the viewer, and at a crucial point in Mexico it becomes clear that these aren't cartoon characters at all but flesh-and-blood humans caught up in their own fakery, never knowing whether the con starts and real life ends, or vice versa.
The version I saw still had some rough edges that Johnson has since ironed out, so it'll be interesting to see the finished version, although I was sad to hear that the dancing dwarf has hit the cutting-room floor. Nevertheless, it was a pretty complete cut, and what struck me as I left the screening was how much I'd enjoyed spending time with this odd quartet, and how soon I'd want to to back to their world. And here I must make special mention of the film's wonderful score, again by Nathan Johnson, the director's talented cousin. The main themes really draw out the flavour of a film that, though it's about artifice and deception, never feels manipulative or calculating.
There's no word yet on a UK distributor, but my spider senses tell me that audiences here may get a glimpse before Christmas (it's out October 24 in the US). Source: www.empireonline.com
"Right smack in the middle of Comic-Con, Summit has decided to release the first trailer for Rian Johnson's second film - The Brothers Bloom".