REVIEW: “The Sisters Brothers”

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A western starring Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed is an automatic attention-getter. It’s impossible to look at that particular cast and expect a traditional genre piece. “The Sisters Brothers” certainly doesn’t shy away from its western roots. At the same time it can hardly be called conventional.

Phoenix and Reilly play the title siblings, Charlie and Eli Sisters. They’re hired by a wealthy and crooked businessman known as the Commodore (Rutger Hauer) to kill a man named Hermann Warm (Ahmed). It’s believed Warm stole from the Commodore but in reality he possesses a secret formula worth a fortune. The brothers discover the Commodore has hired a tracker named John Morris (Gyllenhaal) who is tasked with locating Warm and then rendezvousing with the brothers.

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Director Jacques Audiard and his co-writer Thomas Bidegain give us a story of McGuffins, quick twists, and shifting allegiances. The tone of the movie changes as often as the loyalties between characters (and that’s saying something), so much so it can be a little disorienting. It definitely aims at being a dark comedy and it sports a handful of genuine laughs. But the seriousness of some scenes can make it all tough to figure out.

The performances never miss a step. Phoenix and Reilly have a weird and off-beat chemistry that works really well within this unorthodox story. Both are remarkably versatile actors which proves to be a strength. But I found myself drawn most towards Gyllenhaal who is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. He brings a sophistication and mystery to his character which makes him stand out.

“The Sisters Brothers” Audiard’s non-traditional foray into the Wild West. He nails the 1800’s Gold Rush setting. Despite its shaky tone some of the humor lands really well. And it’s a lot of fun watching such an eclectic cast bite into this fascinating assortment of characters. The story doesn’t play out in the most satisfying way, but it still manages to add a unique and welcomed look into the western genre.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

3-5-stars

14 thoughts on “REVIEW: “The Sisters Brothers”

  1. I have this film at my local library as I hope to see it as soon as possible though maybe next month as I usually like to do American films in July including westerns.

    • It’s a good one. Maybe not as good as it could have been, but I was in on its offbeat Western storytelling. Would be curious to hear your thoughts on it.

  2. I’m in agreement esp with regards to ultimate satisfaction. I liked the performances a lot, the setting was convincing and as you say it’s not quite a traditional western. I always felt distant from the movie though, never able to get into it as much as I wanted, especially with that cast. I think I gave it a similar score. That said, I’d watch it again and see if it improves.

    • Exactly! While I appreciated it, there was something about it i never could fully get in sync with. The performances are definitely a highlight.

    • Weird pacing, wasn’t it? Jake really grabbed my attention. He has won me over and is an actor with more range than I originally gave him credit for.

  3. I enjoyed this one too, due to the cast (Reilly especially) and dark humour throughout. I believe it was a very faithful adaptation of an acclaimed novel. So, the left-turn narrative events in the final act were likely down to keeping with the book’s storyline (haven’t read that though.) If I hadn’t seen Audiard’s name in the credits you could have thought it was another quirky Coen Brothers Western; a slight departure for this fine French filmmaker. Great review as usual!

    • Oh thank you! And nice connection to the Coen brothers’ style. I hadn’t thought of that but you’re right. This feels like something influenced by their quirky catalog of movies.

  4. The cast was my favourite aspect of this, and Reilly and Phoenix’s opposing characteristics. I do though see what you are saying re- the flaws of it all. Overall tho I had fun with this, though it did confuse and disorientate me at times. I think I need a rewatch

    • It was a really unique and slightly off-beat western. I did enjoy it despite it being a little uneven. I’m with you though – maybe a rewatch would help things a bit.

  5. This was one of my favorite films of last year. I liked the pacing because it fit the character development. It is Humorous but not in a Cohen Brothers/Mel Brooks way. To me the stand out was John C. Reilly, who gave two great performances last year, neither of which received any awards attention.

    • I will admit, Reilly really, really surprised me. I’ve always respected him yet wouldn’t call myself a fan. His casting was weird to me but then I saw him and he really does a great job.

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