Aug 9, 2010

[Movies] The Brothers Bloom (2009)

The Brothers Bloom (2009)I can't remember when I first learned how to appreciate con / caper movies, but I do admit that I do. To be fair, it's not like I absolutely love ALL of them automatically - it's just that I have a good appreciation for them that's a bit higher than for other movie genres. Maybe it started with Sneakers all those years ago or some similar movie. But that's not the point.

The fun thing about caper movies is how they act as the inverse of mysteries and detective stories. Instead of trying to unravel the secret of the crime after the fact, the caper is all about executing a brilliant plan in order to avoid capture. Getting away free with the money or whatever it is their goal is does give the audience a unique kind of thrill, despite the fact that we know what they've managed to accomplish is wrong from a legal perspective. I guess it's the thirll of the all and how we somehow get to vicariously experience committing a crime without the risk of imprisonment.

Plus they're wonderfully intelligent. Crime isn't all about balls or gall, but they're about wits and intelligent. A good con is designed to prey on the weaknesses of the mark and turn those limitations against that person. It doesn't require elaborate trickery but instead just needs a careful nudge here and there until things all just fall into place. And this movie felt like it was more than just a caper movie - and thus that makes it even better.

The Brothers Bloom is a fun caper-centered movie written and directed by Rian Johnson, the same man behind the film festival classic Brick.

As the title implies, the movie focuses on the two brothers - Stephen and Bloom. Going from one foster family to another, they soon find their true calling in terms of running confidence games and scams as a way for the older brother Stephen to give Bloom a chance to live out various roles and personas that he wouldn't normally do. This becomes a lifelong career for them in their adult years, one at which they are quite skilled at.

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 09:  (L-R) Writer/dire...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
In the present day, Bloom (Adrien Brody) is tired of the con man life and wants to quit entirely. He manages to get away for three months until Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) manages to track him down with the help of their enigmatic assistant and explosives expert Bang Bang (Rinku Kikuchi). Stephen proposes one last con involving reclusive yet extremely wealthy heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz). Bloom grudgingly agrees with this final job and thus the movie unfolds.

Clearly Rian Johnson has a passion for the classic criminal caper movie. The movie shows strong influences from other related movies. These are but small touches though that only add to the delight of the movie, which overall has a rather light and playful style to it that I really liked. That's another thing that really worked for me - the movie is a heck of a lot of fun and it makes sure you are reminded of that goal time and time again.

The characters are rather well-written apart from maybe Stephen. Rachel Weisz naturally pulls off a masterful performance as Penelope, especially given she's a book-learned recluse who seems to have figure out how to learn things from books. That one montage sequence along was quite priceless and I find myself enjoying repeat viewings time and time again.

Of course even more endearing to the audience is the character Bang Bang. While she's not exactly mute like how she was in Babel, she is still a woman of few words, fun actions and plastic explosives of just the right explosive quantity. She manages to convey so much throughout the movie without needing to resort to spoken lines plus her antics feel totally anime-like without becoming too over the top.

The movie is smart, in a rather snarky way. I can imagine that probably turned off a lot of reviewers and even people who went to see the movie. It's not the kind of witty exchange that everyone can easily get into. The movie becomes most fun when (1) you don't make too many assumptions about the characters, (2) you do your best to follow the plot (and thus the con) as closely as possible and (3) you genuinely try to get into the con mindset and see if you can outguess the characters (or perhaps the writer-director behind the movie).

The movie itself plays out like a series of cons and the director seems to found a way to have fun with us viewers. He blatantly has characters blurting out lines that seem to discuss the overall story in terms of its direction or maybe the character's primary motivation. And yet one can never be too sure if that's really what they're going to do and thus you just have to keep up until the final reveal occurs and the con is completed. That's just how cons go in real life, after all. Well, at least the good ones anyway.

The Brothers Bloom is a smart spin on the caper concept with a lot of fun, slightly magical moments of surreal whimsy. It gets 5 Bang Bang silent comedic moments out of a possible 5.
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