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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.
- 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 "after party" scene for the opening con, along with fellow Brick alumni Noah Segan and Nora Zehetner, and composer Nathan Johnson. According to Johnson, this was to imply that Brothers Bloom was like an after party for Brick.
- 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 manages using body language and about three lines of dialogue.
- Three words, one of which is a Drink Order.
- 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.
- 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.
- Funny Background Event: Practically runs on this trope. The car, the palm tree, and...
"That's my new favorite camel."
- Foreshadowing: When Bloom and Stephan 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"
- Hat Shop: Bloom's bowler compliments his kind, dependable personality, while Stephen's porkpie represents his more headstrong tendencies.
- 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.
- 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.
- Precision F-Strike: One of Bang Bang's two or three lines 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.
- 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.
- Strange Girl: Penelope embodies this trope.