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The Brothers Bloom 

Quirky con-caper is entertaining despite stumbles

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Rian Johnson's off-beat rom-com caper that follows two brothers as they execute one last long con on an eccentric heiress. Brothers Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody), with their mark, Penelope (Rachel Weisz), in tow, set off for adventure in Old Europe, abetted by lots of charming retro flair. Though this is a contemporary tale, the clothes seem to have been pulled from music-hall trunks, and travel is by ocean steamer. The mood -- and look -- is bright and slightly exaggerated; the dialogue witty. Johnson, who made the revisionist noir Brick, here aims for a gently tweaking meta-narrative about the sort of complicated cons we love to watch on screen. Cons, explains the perpetually scheming Stephen, are stories to be written. Bloom is less enthusiastic: His brother's cons are like Russian novels, he bemoans, that trap him in a series of abbreviated lives not his own. It was all a lot of fun until I lost track of who was conning whom and why, and the story seemed to run into a couple of dead ends that were hastily papered over. When unspooling a clever con, it's OK to keep us guessing until the end, when -- as with the magician's silk handkerchief being whipped away -- we at last see the scattered bits of the rabbit magically reassembled. Unfortunately, the end of Bloom just resulted in an unsatisfying shift in tone, and some head-scratching. Nonetheless, Johnson deserves credit for trying. His film is handsomely constructed and well acted, and might well serve as a summer diversion for the indie set. Loews, Manor

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