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Brothers Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) have been conmen since their orphan days when they moved from foster home to foster home. Bloom has had enough but Stephen, with his sidekick Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi) persuades him to do one last spectacular job - to lure the eccentric New Jersey heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz) into an elaborate plot on a plane, boat and train that involves fellow-conman The Curator (Robbie Coltrane) and their one-eyed former mentor Diamond Dog (Maximilian Schell).

Review by Louise Keller:
'I want an unwritten life,' says Adrien Brody's Bloom, tired of living by rules and playing roles his brother has created. Rian Johnson's story about two con men embarking on their final scam has plenty of promise and entertainment value, but wilts when it matters most - we do not believe it. The film's strength lies in the credible relationship between Mark Ruffalo's Stephen and Brody's Bloom, both utterly convincing as the puppeteer and puppet who live by the storyboards. The first hour especially grabs our attention before disintegrating into a swirl of confusion. We expect the lines between reality and fantasy to become blurred, but we do need to have a stake in the characters or at least believe in their reality.

When mulling all the elements around before writing this review, it occurred to me that Johnson has got so involved with the manipulation of his characters that he has become lost in his own contrivance. I like his idea of colouring the characters surrounding the Bloom brothers as larger-than-life caricatures. This is especially effective in the case of Rinko Kikuchi's wonderful creation of Bang Bang (her smuggler name), who barely speaks, but conveys plenty as she steals the limelight with a withering expression or as she works on her target practise with Barbie dolls. Maximilian Schell is almost unrecognisable as the one-eyed Russian Diamond Dog, the former-mentor and current enemy. Robbie Coltrane's The Curator is fine, although Johnson's first choice of Ricky Jay would have had more grit.

Ironically, film's most interesting character, Rachel Weisz's eccentric heiress Penelope flounders in the wilderness. It's as though Johnson has written Penelope, the epileptic photographer who uses a watermelon as a pinhole camera, for laughs. When we meet her, she crashes her canary yellow Lamborghini, demonstrates her skills from her collection of hobbies (playing piano, harp, accordion, banjo as well as juggling, uni-cycling, martial arts and origami) and can barely keep awake when someone is talking to her. The Penelope who joins the brothers on planes, boats and trains believes Bloom is constipated in his soul. 'She feels like one of your characters,' Bloom tells Stephen.

The settings are gorgeous through Steve Yedlin's lens as we travel from Berlin to Montenegro on the Adriatic to New Jersey, picturesque Prague before ending in a run-down theatre in St Petersberg. It is there that we discover whether or not The Brothers Bloom have executed the perfect con - in which all parties get exactly what they want. If the con and the characters do not feel real, how can the film?

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(US, 2008)

CAST: Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie Coltrane

PRODUCER: Ram Bergman, James D. Stern

DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson

SCRIPT: Rian Johnson


EDITOR: Gabriel Wrye

MUSIC: Nathan Johnson


RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 12, 2009

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