Rian Johnson made his feature debut with the art-house sleeper Brick (2005), which transposed the hard-boiled dialogue and tangled mystery of a Dashiell Hammett novel to a suburban SoCal high school. This follow-up is another puckish reworking of a familiar genre—the con-man story, in which a professional trickster falls in love and has to choose candor over deception. Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody are the title brothers; their scheme to swindle eccentric heiress Rachel Weisz is complicated when Brody develops unexpected feelings for her. With its references to Joyce and Melville and its metafictional musings, The Brothers Bloom is every bit as quirky and literate as its predecessor, but it lacks the conceptual edge of Brick, which used noir mythology to comment on the social ruthlessness of high school. As a result, it often seems precious and overconceived, its accumulating crosses and double-crosses as devoid of consequence as a child's backyard game. PG-13, 113 min.
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