“The Brothers Bloom” (2008)
dir. Rian Johnson
Like his first film (“Brick”) Johnson’s follow up (“The Brothers Bloom”) takes its cue from a crime sub-genre, the con film (see: David Mamet’s “House of Games” or “Spanish Prisoner”) in an attempt to transcend the genre while weaving an intricate and complex web of character, plot, style and romance. It even includes a cameo by con man, illusionist and cult film star Ricky Jay (Mamet, again) in the prologue. By far the single most compelling and emotional chapter of the story.
Johnson does away with some of the convoluted plot that made “Brick” such a hazy maze, opting for a more streamlined story-line. He also adds more substantial emotional terrain for the actors to traverse. However, Johnson’s stylistic flourishes detract from some of the drama and his compulsion to illustrate the meaning of the story through character’s dialogue erodes away much of its mystery. Almost as if he’s desperate for nobody to miss out on the message of the film. So periodically, he spells it out for us.*
As mainstream films go, “The Brothers Bloom” is innovative and captivating, artistic and accessible without being overbearing or smug. A crowd pleaser. Johnson is also an impressive force behind the camera whose attention to detail and playful sense of humour is another welcomed touch. Even if his ambitions get the better of him.
*Another talented filmmaker equally capable of fashioning a compelling, original take on a well-worn genre but incapable of resisting the urge to explain it away before the end titles, is Chris Nolan.