Director Rian Johnson scored a minor success with his first effort Brick, an updating of a neo-noir crime tale transplanted to a college campus with oddly distinctive dialogue patter. His new movie – well, it's not that new as it was screened at the 2008 London Film Festival – gives him a larger budget and bigger canvas to play on. Unfortunately bigger doesn't mean better here. The Brothers Bloom is an absolute stinker – obtuse, irritating and excruciating – and Johnson simply hasn't the smarts or the style to handle it.
The overcomplicated and tedious plot involves two orphan brothers (Brody and Ruffalo) who are conmen. Ever since childhood, where they were shuttled from foster home to foster home, thay have been tricking people, and now they've decided upon Rachel Weisz as their next and final mark. As a millionairess "epileptic photographer" who's proficient in any number of trivial skills, she is looking for a big adventure and Brody falls for her. Their escapades take them to Berlin, Greece, Prague, Mexico and St Petersburg conducting ever more elaborate cons that you won't care a damn about.
Robbie Coltrane turns up as a shady "curator" early on and veteran Oscar winner Maximilian Schell plays a dastardly villain, but as their games become more overwrought the tone remains steadfastly jaunty and quirky, straining for laughs that fail to appear. It's unpersuasive and charmless and the whole enterprise never takes flight despite the general air of exuberance. Director Johnson said he was inspired by The Sting and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels when making the movie but to compare this sorry affair with those two hits is a complete joke.
It's an immature piece where a director has become out of control and no-one responsible has reined him in. A misbegotten mess that should be avoided at all costs, The Brothers Bloom is calamitous – abjectly awful and truly terrible.
EXTRAS ★★★ An 18-minute interview with writer/director Johnson; a 15-mintue making-of featurette, called In Bloom; 32 minutes of deleted scenes, with a commentary by Johnson; the theatrical trailer.