As far as con men stories go,
I think I've heard them all:
Grifters, ropers, faro-fixers,
Tales drawn long and tall.
But if one bears a bookmark,
In the confidence man's tome,
It would be that of Penelope,
And of the Brothers Bloom.
— First lines of the opening narration, The Brothers Bloom
Directed by Rian Johnson
, The Brothers Bloom
is a caper film about two brothers who've worked together as con men for their entire lives. At the top of their game, the younger brother Bloom (Adrien Brody
) finds himself increasingly reluctant to do shady deeds. His older brother Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) persuades him to do one last con, accompanied by their regular accomplice Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi
), with eccentric heiress Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz
) as the mark. Naturally, Bloom falls head over heels in love with Penelope.
A classic caper film in many respects, the Brothers Bloom offers all the twists and turns you might expect. It also offers engaging characters, fantastically sharp dialogue (something of a Rian Johnson trademark), and some interesting examinations as to the nature of storytelling. Oh, and lots of scenery.
This film provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Bang Bang, the "muscle" of the group, is a slender Asian woman who shows a proficiency with firearms and explosives.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Subverted and parodied. The escapee is foiled by the air vent traveling directly through the rooms of the building, instead of in the ceiling. The air vent then collapses as she falls into a room filled with cops (who were drawn there by the noise).
- Anachronism Stew: The world of the film is charmingly timeless, featuring set and costume design evocative of eras from as early as the 1920's to modern times.
- Book Ends: The film opens with a sun popping up from the horizon and a car driving on a long rural road toward the camera, and ends with Penelope and Bloom driving away from camera as the sun pops back down.
- Brick Joke: Penelope says near the beginning of the movie that whenever she sees someone doing something she likes, she learns how to do it. After spending half the movie with Bang Bang, she shows off her own new found skills with plastic explosives.
- Briefcase Full of Money: Subverted. Stephen uses a cashier's check, and scoffs at the idea of a briefcase full of money, saying that only Russian mafia men and Hollywood spies use still use them. Later, a Russian mafioso indeed shows up with a briefcase full of money.
- The Cameo: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the party scene... for no discernible reason. Also in the party scene are Brick alumni Noah Segan and Nora Zehetner.
- The Cast Showoff: Rachel Weisz doing practically everything, and Rinko Kikuchi gets a karaoke scene.
- Chekhov's Boomerang:
Stephen: Tastes like tinfoil.
- The Con: The name of the game.
- Con Man: The eponymous brothers.
- Deadpan Snarker: Bang Bang. See Facial Dialogue below.
- Easter Egg: Much like in the DVD for Brick, the Brothers Bloom DVD has an easter egg in the form of one of Rian Johnson's early short films, in this case a silent comedy in the style of Buster Keaton. To find it, put the cursor on languages (but don't select it), press left three times, and right once.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Up until the job with Penelope, the Brothers Bloom have never targeted women with their cons.
- Facial Dialogue: Bang Bang has only three lines of actual dialogue. The rest of her communication is through expression and body language.
- The Fixer: Stephen, the elder brother who plans all the cons. Not so much doing it for the money, as much as he just really wants to write a good story and make it real.
- Flopsy: How Bloom meets Penelope, in a marriage of the classic con and a deliberate invocation of Meet Cute.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you pause the film when Stephen and Bloom are sitting in a bar in New Jersey discussing their last con, you can see the entire plot up to Mexico outlined on the piece of paper on the table in front of them.
- Funny Background Event: Practically runs on this trope. The car, the palm tree, and...
"That's my new favorite camel."
- When Bloom and Stephen are talking about Penelope on the boat to Greece, Bloom mentions that she seems like a character Stephen created...
Stephen: The day I con you is the day I die, Bloom.
- Further foreshadowing on the same point, when Bloom is telling Penelope about the brothers' (fake) smuggling background:
Bloom: Sometimes, I think he'd love to die on a job.
- Hat Shop: Bloom's bowler complements his kind, dependable personality, while Stephen's fedora represents his more headstrong tendencies.
- In Love with the Mark
- Last Name Basis: Bloom, for reasons unknown.
- Lonely Rich Kid: Penelope's life could be described by this trope. After the results of an allergy showed her to be allergic to pretty much everything, she was housebound for her childhood and adolescence. As it turns out, she was actually just allergic to the aluminum alloy used for the test's needles.
- Mad Bomber: How do you think Bang Bang got her name?
- The Mark: Penelope Stamp. Con men aren't supposed to fall In Love with the Mark, but this is Rachel Weisz we're talking about.
- Meaningful Name:
- Bloom develops from a dependent prop in his brother's cons to his own person. The brother blooms.
- Bang Bang likes explosives.
- A Minor Kidroduction: Bloom and Stephen are introduced at ages 10 and 13, showing them bouncing from foster family to foster family.
- Nice Hat: Bloom and Stephen have been wearing them since they were kids, and Penelope and Bang Bang seem to pick up the habit while travelling with them. This adds to the film's charmingly timeless style.
- One Last Job: Stephen's promise to Bloom.
- Opening Monologue: The opening of the film, a flashback to the brothers' childhood, is narrated by actor and magician Ricky Jay. The narration and dialogue actually fit together in verse.
Narrator: They were the they, all well-loved, rooted, happy as you please.
Narrator: Always there in every town—
Young Stephen: Playground bourgeoisies.
- Precision F-Strike:
- Two of Bang Bang's three words of dialogue are "Fuck me!" when they accidentally blow up part of the castle.
- Penelope's line, "I think you're constipated... in your fucking soul," could also count.
- Riddle for the Ages:
- We never find out what Penelope said to the police to get them to release her.
- There's also no way of knowing when Penelope figured out it was a con-job; her reference to the Melville story suggests she may have known from the beginning.
- The Roper: Bloom, who begins to struggle with the emotional consequences of luring people in for the con.
- Rustproof Blood: Averted and lampshaded, becoming an important plot point.
- Shotacon: Diamond Dog (in the worst possible way), although it's mostly subtext, and only becomes canon through the deleted scenes.
- Shout-Out: Stephen includes a shout-out to Herman Melville's The Confidence Man: A Masquerade in his con. It's implied that all of Stephen's cons, which he considers works of art, contain shout-outs.
- Silent Bob: Bang Bang is expressive enough to have largely evolved past the need to speak. Interestingly, the actress had previously played another mute character in Babel.
- Silent Snarker: Bang Bang conveys a lot of attitude without dialogue.
- Technology Marches On: Alluded to (and ultimately averted) in the DVD commentary. Director Rian Johnson mentions that he's polling Twitter for questions that people want answered during the commentary, and comments that doing so will sound ridiculous in five years, comparing it to as if he'd talked about Friendster on the Brick commentary. 6 years later, and Twitter is still alive and well.