The most frustrating thing about watching “The Brothers Bloom” is that if it had ended 20 minutes earlier it would have been just about perfect.
Rian Johnson, who came out of the ether with a bang two years ago with his brilliant and sophisticated “Brick” makes all the classic mistakes for a sophomore director in his latest film: there’s one twist too many, one scene that exists out of place with the rest of the feature, and an extended climax followed with a hasty, ill-plotted denouement, all generally in the last 20 minutes.
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz
Seen at: Somerville Theater, Davis Square
Which really is a shame considering how quick, smart, poignant and hysterically funny the other hour and half of the film is. The eponymous brothers (played by Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo) are con-men, looking to score a big mark in the form of an invalid heiress (Rachel Weisz). The adventure that ensues echoes nothing so much as the British thrillers Alfred Hitchcock made before he crossed the briny deep to stab Janet Leigh in the shower and terrorize Cary Grant in a crop duster. There’s a beautiful ocean steamer, seedy Russians, vast exchanges of money and a constant barrage of razor-sharp dialogue.
Brody and Ruffalo have a terrific rapport with one another, and Weisz has revealed herself to have quite the comedic chops (the moment when she skips down a beach, singing a little tune of her own creation is truly priceless). But, as was the case in her role in “Babel” Rinko Kikuchi nabs the spotlight from her more famous co-stars and keeps it on her the entire film. Kikuchi plays a demolitions expert named Bang-Bang and says only three words in the entire film; her sardonic; kohl-rimmed eyes say everything we need to know.
In “Brick,” Johnson demonstrated a wonderful visual eye in his filming of an austere, sun-bleached southern California. This film features more exotic locales (Montenegro, Serbia, Prague), and obviously higher production values. Johnson both indoor and outdoor spaces beautifully; there’s a scene set in an old theater that’s completely unnecessary, but damn if it isn’t gorgeous. The costumes are similarly lush and well-produced: if any part of this film should become iconic, it should be the image of Kikuchi in her ratty fur coat, blood-red gloves and wide-brimmed hat.
Johnson said in the question-and-answer session following the film’s screening that originally there had been more to the ending, but that he had edited it out in favor of a more streamlined narrative. I can’t imagine what else he could have stuffed in there — the end was too long and pompous as it is. In any case it definitely could have used another go in the cutting room; he includes a “false ending” that really should have been the real one. But don’t let the flaws of a newer director frighten you away- there’s so much good stuff in here, more than enough to put up with a little frustration at the finale.