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.
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