Here’s the problem: Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody are not Paul Newman and Robert Redford. They’d like to be and the plot has undertones of “The Sting.” But they aren’t – and it isn’t. That having been said, here’s the gist:
The Bloom brothers are the best grifters in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue, asserting: “The perfect con is where everyone involved gets just what they wanted.”
Now they’ve decided to take on one last job – showing a lonely, eccentric New Jersey heiress, Penelope (Rachel Weisz), the time of her life with a romantic adventure that takes them around the world – from Athens to Montenegro to St. Petersburg to Prague – in pursuit of illicit thrills and priceless artifacts coveted by some of their most unsavory competitors.
Writer/director Rian Johnson (“Brick”) peppers the episodic, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”-like plot with stalwart supporting players, like Robbie Coltrane, as the Curator, and Maximilian Schell, as Diamond Dog, but none more curious than the brothers’ longtime assistant, an explosive expert called Bang-Bang, played mostly in mime by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel”). While obviously talented, neither Mark Ruffalo (“Zodiac”) nor Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”) exudes the charisma and charm to make these artful dodgers believable, although Rachel Weitz (“The Constant Gardener”) surprises with her aptitude for slapstick comedy.
By far the most interesting aspect of “The Brothers Bloom” is Jim Clay’s quirky yet opulent, Old World production design, including using Peles Castle in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains to double for Penelope’s mansion. Within it, she creates her own universe, becoming an expert in foreign languages, skateboarding, ping-pong and gymnastics, along with making pinhole cameras out of everyday objects, like watermelons.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Brothers Bloom” is a shallow, constricted, tepid 3. You know there’s trouble when the biggest laugh comes from Ruffalo’s inadvertently timely quip: “I don’t like to simplistically vilify an entire country, but Mexico is a horrible place.”