The Brothers Bloom is a con-artist movie in which the title siblings, played by a cocksure Mark Ruffalo and a morosely abashed Adrien Brody, stage lavishly orchestrated, months-in-the-making deceptions to bilk well-chosen marks out of their millions. Writer-director Rian Johnson works almost as hard to fake out the audience. The movie would probably have come off as more bold and bracing if it didn’t follow a trilogy of Ocean‘s capers, plus a lesser wave of heist flicks (The Italian Job) and fool-the-audience contraptions (The Prestige). Yet the novelty here, and it’s a good one, is that Johnson decorates and deepens the gamesmanship with tender shoots of family feeling.
Brody plays Bloom (it’s his first name), who has spent his life acting out roles in his older brother’s scams and can therefore no longer separate the real from the con. It’s Bloom’s job to seduce a wealthy eccentric, played with a charming ditzy-sad glow by Rachel Weisz. Is he fooling her, or is he in love and conning himself? Johnson’s first film, the Hammett-goes-to-high-school noir Brick, was so hard-packed with cleverness it didn’t breathe. This time we expect to be played, but the twist is that we’re also touched — which, the film implies, is the cinema’s own form of deception. B