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.
— Part of the opening narration for The Brothers Bloom
The second film of indie director Rian Johnson (the first being the high school neo-noir classic Brick), 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, 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.
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.
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.
Facial Dialogue: Remember how we mentioned that Bang-Bang was a Deadpan Snarker? Yeah... she manages to do this using nothing but body language, facial expressions, and only three words of spoken dialogue. And one of these words is a Drink Order!
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.
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?
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.
Precision F-Strike: The other two of Bang-Bang's three spoken words (other than the aforementioned Drink Order), is "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.