Following his acclaimed (yet somewhat overrated) high-school noir debut Brick, writer-director Rian Johnson opts for something more playful with The Brothers Bloom, a story about two conman brothers (Mark Ruffalo, Adrian Brody) trying to grift a naive new mark (Rachel Weisz). Opening, like Magnolia, with a Ricky Jay-narrated prologue, it’s clearly the work of a talented storyteller trying to find his voice, playing out at times like the eccentric middle-ground between Wes Anderson and The Coen Brothers.
But despite boasting more emotion than the former and less mean-spirit than the latter, many will still find Johnson’s second feature overly whimsical and too quirky for its own good. Still, there’s a creative visual sense and some nice sight gags throughout, while Ruffalo, Brody and Weisz offer strong central performances (as does Robbie Coltrane, in support). Ultimately though, while never boring, the narrative is never particularly involving either, and the labyrinthine nature of all the conning (everything is a con-within-a-con) just leaves you expecting a big climactic twist. And, aside from a well-handled, blood-related revelation which proves surprisingly affecting, this never really materialises.