It was a surprisingly murky Friday morning when I walked into the post-production offices of The Brothers Bloom. Perhaps the moody and amazing film The Dark Knight, which had screened at midnight the night before, had still cast a pall over the usually sunny cityscape that is Hollywood. When I walked into writer-director Rian Johnson's office for the film, The Dark Knight was already a topic of conversation amongst Johnson, who had caught a midnight showing, and the other online journalists assembled. However, we weren't there to talk Batman, we were there to see a little glimpse at Johnson's new film, The Brothers Bloom, Johnson's follow-up to his much-darker debut, Brick.
He started off by describing the film as a con-man film that is very much in the vein of classic con-man capers such as The Sting and Paper Moon. The film revolves around its title characters, two lifelong con-men brothers played by Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo. "They're travelling around on steamer ships and hopping around the globe and it's got that kind of old-school, screwball feel to it," Johnson said. He also added that it was, "very characer-based. It was kind of the marching orders that I gave myself. It got me excited to do a character-based con-man movie. It ended up being a tricky proposition because, with a con-man movie, it's all wondering who's conning who, who can you trust, and so trying to figure out creative ways to create emotional investment in these characters is when you're always wondering who's fucking who, was a unique challenge. I think, ultimately, the success of the movie is not with the twists and the plot but, hopefully, it's the characters that carry you through to the end."
After that he showed us the brief opening sequence, which is narrated by actor and master magician Ricky Jay, who Johnson was obviously a big fan of since there was an old poster for one of Ricky Jay's magic shows framed on the wall. The opening sequence starts off with the title displayed in a huge, Chicago-esque sign of lights, which Johnson later added was actually built for the movie and was 30 feet tall. The opening sequence goes back to the brothers, Bloom (Brody) and Stephen (Ruffalo), as young lads and it showed the first con they ever pulled off, augmented by the delightful narration by Ricky Jay (although he only narrates that one part and not the entire film), and it really gets the film off to a great start.
After the footage he added that they filmed that sequence in Belgrade, Serbia, which was the last thing to be shot. "It was almost like we wrapped and then we went back and made a little short," Johnson added. He also noted that he used children from this diplomat school in Serbia with English speaking children. He listed off the Eastern European locations they shot the remainder of the film, in such locales as Montenegro, Prague and Romania. Johnson also said that, while the children all spoke English, the adult actors in that sequence were locals and didn't speak any English, but they were also local celebrities. "The woman who plays the mom, who's sitting there in the doorway. The crew would be coming up to her and asking for autographs and we realized that they were all these really famous Serbian actors."
To ready us for the next sequence, Johnson told us that the film was about a series of cons, but, "it's much more about the triangle between the two brothers and Rachel Weisz's character, Penelope, who they end up conning. It's not so much the heist movie structure with one big thing with a big payoff at the end. It's more following several cons through these three people."
The sequence we saw next takes us to Bloom and Stephen as adults, with Bloom fed up with the con world and he tried to escape the clutches of his brother Stephen, who's been planning these cons their whole life. The segment starts with Stephen finding Bloom, through their (virtually) silent partner and explosives expert, Bang Bang, played amazingly by Babel Oscar nominee, Rinko Kiguchi. Stephen talks Bloom into the proverbial "one last score" to con this amazingly rich and eccentric woman named Penelope (Rachel Weisz). They go out to her ridiculously-lavish estate that she resides in all by herslef, and we see her pull up in a Big Bird-yellow Lamborghini that she cavalierly crashes into a huge statue. She gets out unscathed and aloof, not really caring about her pricey auto that's ruined. While Bloom, Stephen and Bang Bang talk about their easy mark, we see a truck drive up with another identical brand new Lamborghini. Hilarious! They talk some more and Bloom is hooked, but it seems partially by her beauty, of course. The whole sequence had me laughing practically the whole time, and blown away by Johnson's amazingly-crisp comedic writing. It should also be noted that the score is just right on the money and was scored by Johnson's cousin, Nathan Johnson, who also scored Brick.
After that portion of footage, Johnson was praising Weisz and her performance, which was justified by what I saw. "It's a really difficult character because, I hope from this section it's represented well, but this character has a lot of, for lack of a better word, quirk to it and I think this section represents a lot of that. What I think Rachel really pulls off is getting beyond that and grounding the character and creating someone who isn't just this wacky character. I think it's a pretty cool performance to watch, actually."
Johnson also talked about the con man genre itself and said that this will be a much different take on the genre. "Where it goes at the end, isn't where a traditional con movie goes. It definitely has a couple of big cons in it, but it kind of veers off the road a little bit and goes someplace that I hope is unexpected." He also added that this is a movie that might play differently the second time you see it. "The other thing exciting for me is I'm going to be really curious, when people go to see it a second time, I've got a feeling it will be an entirely different movie, but one that, I hope, will almost be more interesting than when they see it the first time."
The last part of footage we saw was after our title characters have hooked Penelope into the con and they're taking her on a steamer ship across the Atlantic. They have a fake book that they want her to steal from this library in a Prague castle that they tell her is very valuable but is really worthless. Johnson decided to show us a little before that too where the "sexual tension" between Bloom and Penelope is finally broken. The plan is to send her into this castle alone to steal this "priceless" book. Bang Bang will set off a small explosive charge which will emit smoke that will trigger the fire alarms and she is to make her escape amidst the chaos. However, when Bang Bang's explosive has a little too much, well, bang-bang, a whole section of the cathedral blows up, which causes Kiguchi to utter the hilariously-placed phrase, "F&*$ me," which is two of the three words she says throughout the entire movie ("Campari" at a bar during a brief sequenc we saw was the other word). Needless to say, her escape is made much more difficult, but through a simply hilarious few scenes, she escapes unscathed and with the book. I was laughing harder during each sequence they showed us and I hope the movie is the same way.
After that last footage, Johnson touched on the marketing campaign, stating he was pleased with the trailer that they had just finished the previous day and the website (which is live now here) will be a continual process with more content added as we near the release date. He did note that this won't be an uber-crazy campaign. "We won't be sending people cakes with cell phones in them or anything," Johnson said, alluding to the immense viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight.
Johnson also told us a bit about the next project he's writing, a sci-fi film called Looper. "It's sci-fi, but it's very character based and it's concentrated. It's very different than the Terminator movies, but it's very similar to the first Terminator, where time travel is involved, but only as a plot device. It just stays in one time and one place. Time travel has evolved. It's going to be really really different from this. It's actually the exact polar opposite. It's going to be really pretty violent, actually."
Well, that was all we saw from the film and heard from Rian Johnson and, I've got to tell you, this looks like one simply awesome flick. I, like Johnson himself, am a huge fan of the con movie genre and this looks like it completely revitalizes the genre. Coming off such a dark and dreary indie like Brick, I'm really blown away at how he can switch genres with such ease and have such an immensely natural feel for comedy. Every second of this footage was just a delight to watch, full of snappy dialogue, terrific music and smashing peformances from all involved, although I was espeially blown away by Rinko Kiguchi, who definitely proves that she can cross genres as easily as her director, with a truly unique and hilarious performance. This is one I'm surely marking my calendar for, and you should mark yours too for October 14, when the film hits theaters. If you're a fan of any of the actors here, Johnson or just the con-man genre itself, you'll want to check this out for sure. Take care, folks, and always remember: if it looks like a good time, sounds like a good time and feels like a good time... it probably isn't free. Peace in. Gallagher out!