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The Brothers Bloom were foster children thrown around the system, sent from house to house. They were troublemakers who never fit in to any community. Stephen was the eldest, while Bloom was three years younger. After 38 different foster families, Stephen was disillusioned and realized that they were always going to be poor…unless they did something about it. He drew up a plan to con the neighborhood children out of their money, using Bloom as the point man. Bloom befriended the children, earned their trust, told them about a treasure in a cave in the woods and took their money. Bloom then led them through the cave where the kids got all dirty but were happy. Their parents came to the foster family and their stepdad knocked Stephen around until he gave the money back. They were sent away from the foster house, but on their way out of town the two collected 50 dollars from the town’s sole dry cleaner in exchange for bringing him so much business. They had found their calling.

Twenty-five Years Later:

Bloom (Adrian Brody) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) run a con, which ends with Bloom getting shot in the chest. After the shooter leaves, Bloom jumps up and the pair steals the money the shooter left behind in his hurry. They go to a bar for a drink with their partner, Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi).  Stephen discusses his cons with a Turkish stranger and tries to pull off a magic trick, which doesn’t work. He’s personable and tells stories while Bloom is in the corner.

Bloom is playing solitaire when a young woman named Ruth arrives and begins hitting on Bloom. Bloom explains that the reason his and Stephen’s cons work is because they plan everything to a T. They include symbolic themes and hidden associations, which trick the mind into recalling old memories, which the brothers use to their advantage. She tries to kiss him but Bloom gets up and walks away. He tells her that Stephen arranges everything perfectly, even convincing Ruth that she wants to kiss him. Bloom goes outside to get some air.

Stephen comes out of the bar and the two walk through a Berlin Zoo. Outside of the camel cage, Stephen discusses the fake blood on Blooms suit (commenting on the one flaw: that fake blood doesn’t turn brown after thirty minutes like real blood) but Bloom doesn’t want to hear it. Bloom tells Stephen that he’s tired of conning people and not living the way he wants to. He wants an “unwritten life” which he can’t have if Stephen keeps coming up with the parts. He tells Stephen he loves him and leaves Stephen in the zoo.

Three Months Later:

In an Italian countryside, Bloom has passed out on the floor of the room he is renting. Stephen arrives and tells him to wake up. Bloom asks how Stephen found him and Stephen tells him he used Bang Bang. Stephen tells Bloom that Bloom didn’t want to quit and that he has something he wants to show him. Bloom asks where and Stephen tells him New Jersey. Bloom gets his coat and they take the next plane to New Jersey.

The Brothers rent a beat up Cadillac and go to a house that looks like it came out of Jane Eyre (which, according to a first edition, it did). A cherry Lamborghini roars out the gate and crashes into a tree. Out comes Penelope (Rachel Weisz). She gets a tow truck to tow the wrecked car and bring her a new one. Bloom doesn’t want to con her because she is a woman, and Stephen had long ago promised that they would never con a woman. Stephen tells Bloom the con is designed to give Bloom what Bloom really wants and tells him how it’s going to play out while Bloom watches Penelope play a song by the Clash on a harp.

A few days later, Penelope is driving her Lamborghini down the street when Bloom rides his bike right into the car. Penelope has an epileptic seizure and ends up driving her car into a ditch. She ends up in the hospital. Since Stephen had tried to make it so that Bloom was the one in the hospital, the trio make changes to the plan. Bloom visits Penelope at the hospital and she asks if he is alright.

The next day, Bloom helps Penelope go back to her house. She apologizes for ruining his bike and gives him and large wad of cash in a green envelope. She leaves abruptly, causing Bloom to think he messed up the con. Penelope runs back and invites Bloom in for tea.

Over tea, Penelope and Bloom talk a lot. Bloom initiates the con by describing how his brother and he grew up to be “antique dealers.” Penelope keeps losing focus, and then Bloom asks about Penelope’s past but is distracted by how Penelope was a shut in for most of her life because doctors thought she was allergic to everything. She later found out she was only allergic to the needle, but before she could leave her house and enjoy the world, her mother became ill. Penelope stuck around until her mother died and tried to convince herself that she didn’t resent her mother. Bloom is sympathetic, but he tells her he has to go.  But before he does, he asks Penelope about her odd talents (harp, guitar, piano, cards, skateboarding) and Penelope tells Bloom that when she sees someone with an interesting talent, she learns it. Bloom is impressed and leaves. Penelope asks if she will see him again and Bloom replies that she’ll see him when he “gets back” from his trip to Greece.

The next day, Bloom, Steven and Bang Bang are at the docks preparing to board a steamer bound for Greece. Bloom expresses doubts as to whether he “hooked” Penelope, but a few seconds later she crashes her car near the port. Unharmed, Penelope says hello and tells Bloom that she will be joining them on their trip. She reasons that it looks fun and that she wants to see the world. Bloom gets her on board but notices a man known as the Curator at the stern of the ship. He steers Penelope away from him and tells her not to speak with him. Bloom introduces Penelope to Bang Bang and Stephen. 

The group enjoys themselves on the cruise and they play various games. One night, the Curator sneaks up on Penelope and tells her that the Brothers Bloom are not antique dealers, but are in fact antique smugglers. The Curator tells her that he has a “book of hours” in his museum in Prague that he wishes to sell to an elderly Argentinean man who is dying of cancer. Penelope decides that she wants to smuggle the book to Argentine so that she can give a dying man his last wish. Penelope goes to Bloom and begs him and Stephen to help her smuggle the book. After much hesitation, the two agree. The group heads to Prague.

Bloom is upset that the smuggling business has gone straight to Penelope’s head. She spends time coming up with smuggler handshakes and songs, and even goes so far as to make a smuggler’s flag. Stephen tells Bloom to let her have her fun. On the train, Bloom sees Penelope and Bang Bang stealing food and drinks and pays for what they stole. Upset that Bang Bang is encouraging Penelope, he separates the two. Bloom and Penelope sit in a cabin as Penelope drinks the gin that she stole. A lightening storm begins and Penelope goes into spasms before then randomly blurts out that she is horny. Bloom instantly leaves wishing her a good night.

Stephen, while walking around the deck, receives a telegram from their old mentor, Diamond Dog.

Diamond Dog and the Brothers Bloom had a falling out which resulted in Stephen cutting out one of Diamond Dog’s eyes. He tells the man operating the telegraph to respond, “If you feel the need to lose the other eye, you’re welcome to stop by – love The Brothers Bloom.” Stephen then walks away.

The next morning Penelope is extremely hung-over. The group goes to the Prague museum and meets with the Curator. The Curator tells them that, as middlemen, they must buy the book from him for a million dollars and then sell it to the collector for 2.5 million. Penelope pays the Curator and he tells her to come back tomorrow. The group leaves.

That night, Diamond Dog pays a visit to Bloom in the hotel. He comes off in a creepy manner, implying that he loved the boys (in a physical sense). It becomes clear that Diamond Dog molested Bloom and that Stephen cut out his eye in retaliation. As Diamond Dog advances on Bloom, Stephen arrives with a broken glass bottle and pulls Bloom away. Stephen stabs Diamond Dog in the hand and forces him out of the hotel. Diamond Dog gets into his car (where an 11 year old boy is seen cowering, confirming the pedophilic allegations) and drives away.

When they return the next morning, the “curator” is gone and has taken the money with him. Stephen and Bloom tell Penelope to give it up as a lost cause; Penelope is so wealthy a million is nothing to her. Penelope, however, isn’t thinking about herself. She wants to grant a dying man’s last wish and decides that they should steal the book themselves. Bloom doesn’t want to do it, but Penelope is insistent. The group hatches a plan to steal the book.

The night before the heist, Penelope packs the bomb into a backpack and places a smaller explosive in her purse. The plan is to start a fire alarm and evacuate the building so that Penelope can slip into the hatch that has the book and leave undetected. Bloom is worried and tries to talk Penelope out of it, but instead the two end up acting on their mutual attraction and sleeping together.

Bang Bang takes the explosives she made for Penelope to the site. Unfortunately, she puts the backpack in the building and not the purse with the smaller explosive. Bang Bang presses on a pencil to activate the bomb. When the bomb goes off, it destroys part of the castle museum, alerting the police. Penelope slips into the hatch and locks it when she hears the police. Bloom realizes that she’ll be all right if she doesn’t do anything suspicious. Penelope then climbs into a vent and falls out in front of the police.

Bloom sees Penelope inside a police car and is horrified when she starts pointing at him and Stephen. The police chief lets Penelope go and kisses her hand, much to the confusion of the Brothers. They don’t ask how she did it, and she doesn’t tell them. She gives them the book and tells them it’s time to make the deal with the dying Antiguan.

On the ride to Mexico, Bloom and Penelope develop their relationship further. Despite being a con, Bloom is legitimately in love with her. When they arrive in Mexico, Bloom acts on his feelings and tells Penelope she is being conned. He takes her to get her money from Stephen’s room but Stephen is waiting for them in a chair with a gun. He tells Bloom that he’s disappointed. The two fight and Stephen drops the gun and gets shot by an accidental discharge. Stephen starts bleeding on the floor and Bloom cradles his brother. Penelope apologizes and leaves. Stephen gets up and tells Bloom that he’s sad Bloom stuck to the plan. Bloom tells him that at least Penelope is gone and won’t fall into any harm.

Three Months Later:

Penelope is writing a letter on her veranda and then presses on a pencil. Her mansion explodes and she walks away. She travels to Italy with Stephen and together go and find Bloom in his house in Italy. Penelope wants to run a con because she thinks it will be fun. Bloom is shocked and upset. He finds out that Bang Bang gave Penelope her cell number and helped find Bloom. Bloom pulls Stephen aside and tells him that they have to fix this so that Penelope leaves them for good.

The Brothers, Penelope and Bang Bang decide to sell the book of hours to some “Russians” in order to make some money. However, Stephen persuaded Diamond Dog and his gang to be the Russians for an undisclosed amount. Diamond Dog confirms the plans with them and drops his lighter when he leaves. Stephen tells Bloom that the plan is for the group to fake their deaths in a heroic fashion so that she will run for the rest of her life from the Russians after her. Bloom agrees with the plan and they arrange for an explosive to go off at the bridge, starting the “attack.”

The next day, Penelope makes the drop with the Russians. They haggle and ask to pay in Rubbles but eventually hand over 2 million dollars for the book. However, a quarter mile from where the attack was supposed to take place, the group is attacked. Bang Bang, Stephen, Bloom and Penelope run from the car as it explodes in a fireball. Bloom passes out as a dark figure reaches for Stephen.

When Bloom comes to, Stephen is missing. Penelope tells Bloom that Stephen is being held for ransom. The two drive to a parking lot to meet Bang Bang. Bang Bang returns with a car and Bloom confronts her about what is going on. He asks if this is part of Stephen’s con, but she honestly doesn’t know. Bang Bang makes it clear that she’s going to leave and gives him a note and an envelope. She gets into her car and turns the key, which ignites a car bomb. Bloom and Penelope are horrified. Bloom translates the note, which says “We are all marks in our own cons.”

Penelope speculates that Bang Bang faked her own death so the Russians wouldn’t find her. Bloom isn’t so sure and looks through the envelope. It lists an address for Diamond Dog. Bloom tells Penelope that this was another con to get Penelope to leave, and that they need to go to Diamond Dog to find Stephen. Bloom has a panic attack before going in, but Penelope keeps him together. They enter the room and see it is deserted. The closet bursts open and the 11 year old from Diamond Dog’s car appears holding a double-barreled shotgun. Bloom tells the boy that it’s ok and that whatever happened wasn’t his fault. Bloom gives the boy a wad of cash (the same one that Penelope gave him when they met) and the boy runs away after Penelope asks him a few questions.

They leave the apartment but as they do, they see the Mercedes owned by the mystery figure approaching. Bloom yells at Penelope to get down as the window opens and the occupant throws a Russian nesting doll at them. Inside is a note telling them that if they want Stephen back, they should transfer “a specific amount into a specific account using a specific bank with a specific manager”.  The amount they ask for was the amount Stephen intended to con Penelope out of this time, which causes Bloom to think that Stephen has a con going on both Bloom and Penelope.  However, they wire the cash and await further instructions.

They are told to go to an old burned out theater at 1:50. Bloom enters and is surrounded by darkness. A utility light snaps on and focuses on Stephen, battered and bruised in a chair. Stephen tells him not to move since the gang is calling to see if the money was wired through. Bloom sees a shadowy figure behind Stephen raise his gun and point it at Stephen’s back before shutting off the light. Bloom points his own gun at the man and fires several times. A fierce gun battle occurs between the two until Bloom is bathed in light by a hole in the ceiling, giving the Russian the upper hand. Stephen tackles Bloom out of the way, taking a bullet to the gut in the process. The Russian flees and Bloom cradles his brother who pretends to die. Bloom begs him to tell him it was all a con and that it’s fake blood and blanks in the guns. Stephen comically jumps up and tells Bloom it was all a con. He tells Bloom that he should run away with Penelope and pretend that he is dead in order to make her believe it. Stephen does his card trick from the beginning of the film and pulls a Queen of Hearts from the deck. Bloom tells him that the Queen of Hearts was his card and that the it worked to make Stephen smile. Stephen hugs his brother, covering Bloom in blood, and then Bloom leaves the theater.

Stephen walks over to the chair and collapses. Bloom and Penelope drive away in the car and Bloom falls asleep. When he wakes up they have left Russia behind them. However, Bloom realizes that the blood on his shirt turned brown, something fake blood doesn’t do. Bloom immediately realizes that his brother was dying and breaks down in a field. Stephen, in the chair, looks at the Queen of Hearts and slips it up his cuff before dying. He asks Penelope what the boy in Dog’s apartment said and Penelope tells him that the boy said that he had been alone since yesterday morning. Bloom tells her that everything was real. The Russians killed Diamond Dog and his gang, impersonated them and kidnapped Stephen to make enough money to recoup losses from a con Diamond Dog ran on them. Bloom cries for his dead brother and Bang Bang while Penelope comforts him.  Penelope tells Bloom that when she found Stephen, he told her “there’s no such thing as an unwritten life. There are only poorly written ones.” Bloom realizes that he is truly in love with Penelope and the two drive off into the horizon.

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