Published May 21, 2009In 2005, Johnson gave us Brick, a rather bleak, yet rousing, debut feature that dropped some of the most intricate verbiage we've heard from the English language in years while re-envisioning the noir genre and confirming Joseph-Gordon Levitt's status as one of the finest actors of this generation.
Three years later, he finally lets us back into his world with The Brothers Bloom, a strongly cast con-job flick that keeps on giving. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo play Bloom and Stephen, respectively, hard knock siblings who forge a life of fraud. As Bloom gets tired of the game, Stephen offers up one last job, choosing a debutante loner rich on old money named Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), with a penchant for crashing Lamborghinis, as their mark.
Along with their mute "gadgeteer," Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), the brothers lure the bored Penelope into their trade as antique smugglers before their cover is blown by a past victim, known as the Curator (Robbie Coltrane). From there, they include her in a series of plots she's more than happy to dive into and soon enough, the hilarity turns to danger when the Russian mob seemingly gets involved.
Johnson's script is one of perpetual second-guessing, cunning gags and, although to a lesser extent than the perplexing vocabulary of Brick, flashy dialogue. With the light-hearted whimsy and mise-en-scène, I felt at times like I was watching Wes Anderson's work, but Johnson never slows down his caper nor unravels his elaborate yarn until the surprisingly poignant denouement — the moment where Johnson gives his characters the closure they've yearned for.
With The Brothers Bloom, Johnson's first real shot at commercial success is a finely tuned, well-paced comedy that hustles and heartens, and thanks to the magical performances from his talented cast, he should find himself justifiably sitting alongside glorified contemporaries like Anderson and Noah Baumbauch. (E1)