The Sisters Brothers, based on Patrick deWitt’s 2011 novel, is in limited release and is now playing at Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto. This film marks the English language debut for director Jacques Audiard. It has an excellent cast, featuring John C. Reilly as Eli Sisters, Joaquin Phoenix as Charlie Sisters, Jake Gyllenhaal as John Morris, and Riz Ahmed as Hermann Kermit Warm. Movie lovers will remember Gyllenhaal and Ahmed together in a previous film, the very dark 2014 flick Nightcrawler.
This film may not be a blockbuster. After all, there isn’t even one superhero in the whole movie. In fact, all the characters are tremendously flawed, each in their own way. As well, it’s a western, and that’s a genre which has been done to death over many decades. I’ve heard this one called a revisionist western, and that’s not even a new idea. After all, we endured the forgettable Tarantino effort, The Hateful Eight, just a couple years ago.
In a way The Sisters Brothers is a road-trip movie, except that there are no cars, just horses. For much of the film, in between various gunfights, the brothers are on their horses talking. They’re hired killers. That’s really all they’ve ever done for a living and they are good at their job and bloody ruthless too. Eli doesn’t have the same drunken enthusiasm for killing Charlie enjoys. He’s thinking of stopping, doing something else. He’s the more sensitive of the two. He’s a guy, for instance, who cares about his horse Tub, even though he describes Tub as middling.
Brothers can be a pain in the arse, but you need to be there for them. That’s really why Eli got into the hired gun business. The brothers look after one another, and of course they fight much of the time. The latest mission changes everything for the brothers.
They work for a guy called The Commodore, who tells them who to kill, and the Commodore sends them after a guy named Warm. Warm is a chemist who has a unique formula. Now you need to know this film takes place in California during the gold rush. Dump Warm’s mixture into a creek and it illuminates all the gold in the creek. All you need to do is pick it up. Of course, we all know if anything seems to be too good to be true, it’s – well – too good to be true.
If you get a chance to see The Sisters Brothers, I recommend it. It’s a film which aspires to be a great film. Ok, it falls a little short, but still, it’s got some ambition and it’s great to see a film not driven by special effects for a change. The pace lags for certain sections of this film. I mean noticeably lags. That’s the only thing that bothered me about it. It seems to lose its cadence now and then. Maybe it just needs a little editing.
I should say there are a couple scenes in this movie which have more gore than you may be ready for, maybe even more than the film needs. If that’s going to really bother you, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Would the film have been as good without them? Well, yes I think it would be just fine.
27th Street recommended.