Having artfully conflated the film noir and high school movie in Brick, Rian Johnson plays more games with the audience in a convoluted con comedy that feels like the Ocean’s Eleven sequel Wes Anderson never made.
Inspired by the likes of The Sting and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, this tale of two brothers bilking an heiress out of a million dollars cavorts and gambols across Europe with an infectious if slightly wearing glee. Much as you enjoy the ride, you are left pondering why so much wit, style and smarts have been lavished on something so frustratingly flimsy.
Introduced as a couple of foster kids with a knack for concocting outrageous scams, the grown-up Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and younger sibling Bloom (Adrien Brody) criss cross the globe shafting the unwary. Their latest mark, however, is something new: a wealthy recluse (Rachel Weisz) who, having spent her life mastering a miscellany of random skills (break dancing, banjo plucking, juggling chainsaws), is only too happy to follow them and their mute munitions expert (Rinko Kikuchi) to Prague where a priceless antique is ripe for the taking.
The resulting shenanigans involve a mysterious Belgian (Robbie Coltrane), a con mentor with one eye (Maximilian Schell) and one double cross after another, plus cameos from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lukas Haas. But kooks and quirks alone do not a satisfying movie make, something that becomes increasingly evident the more frequently Johnson tries to pull the rug from under us.
And while one is prepared to indulge this gifted writer/director for much of his sophomore feature, there comes a point when you won’t get fooled again.
Terrific turns from Weisz and Kikuchi and some very funny moments don’t quite add up to something special in a tricksy caper that is all smoke and mirrors. As slick as Brick, yet half as memorable.