Recently, Rian Johnson has developed a reputation as the director that singlehandedly ruined Star Wars forever. And I think that’s incredibly unfair; regardless of one’s opinion on the quality of The Last Jedi (and since I already heard the same arguments way back in 1999, I personally tend to take such hyperbolic statements with a huge grain of salt), he’s an extremely talented storyteller and craftsman. Despite my fondness for his work, however, I’d previously put a little too much faith in critics’ claims that The Brothers Bloom, his sophomore effort, was one of his lesser films, and had therefore studiously avoided it… until tonight.
In many respects, Bloom is the quintessential Johnson movie: a self-aware genre deconstruction that crackles with wit and style to spare. As usual, the action unfolds in a nebulous space that exists outside of historical context: Brick’s high school students talked like hardboiled film noir detectives, Looper’s futuristic hitmen dressed like gangsters straight out of a James Cagney picture, and the protagonists here evoke the conmen, grifters, and gentlemen thieves of classic Hollywood. The plot features all the misdirection, double- and triple-crosses, and convoluted capers that the viewer would expect, but these familiar elements are remixed and reassembled in fresh and imaginative ways. The narrative frequently (almost constantly) calls attention to its own artifice, which might be frustrating in less capable hands—but is in this instance executed with effortless charm. It’s definitely not for everybody… but I don’t really care, because it does appeal to my particular cinematic tastes.