The Sisters Brothers gives us a western film with a masculine heart. It includes many western movie tropes such as, gunslinging, whiskey drinking, and saloon entrance making men, but what sets this movie apart from others is that it shows us that there is more to these men, than just their wild ways.
Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli (john C. Reilly) Sister are bounty hunters who do the bidding and killing for a powerful man they call the Commodore. He dispatches orders and they comply; no questions asked doing whatever it takes to get paid. He orders them to find and bring him a gold-hunting chemist by the name of Hermann Kermit Worme (Riz Ahmed). Also, under the direction of the Commodore is John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is tasked with finding Worme and bringing him to the Sisters brothers.
Worme befriends Morris and finds out that he has a formula for finding gold. He created a chemical that when poured into the water, dissolves and illuminates where the gold is hiding. Morris is intrigued not only by his idea, but by who he is as a person. He exudes generosity and intelligence, something that we see is lacking in the outposts that are filled with crude and insolent men, whose only mission is to find a piece of gold. Which they will probably turn in and use to buy booze. Worme and Morris join forces and have a vision of collecting gold and using the funds to start their own utopia in Texas.
French director Jacques Audiard makes his first English film debut while adding his French aesthetic to the western motif. He provides audiences with gratuitous bloodshed, albeit only slightly, in no way shape or form can we even compare it to the blood count in Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. Nonetheless it delivers the western artistic vision of beautiful and lush landscapes, untouched yet by the industrialization that would soon come and take over. The horses stand in the foreground, and we understand that they are vital to these men.
The Sisters brothers continue their mission to find Worme and Morris and stop at nothing to find these men. Along the way, we learn that Eli is the more sensitive of the two, every night before he goes to bed he folds up a red scarf and touches it to his face. Who it belonged to, we don’t really know, but we see that he is sensitive to the world and yearning for something more. Charlie is a lewd drunk, drinking himself to the point of vomiting, but Eli is used to his shenanigans and knows how to deal with him. After all, it’s his brother and he will stand by him through thick and thin.
By the end of the movie, we realize that it is Reilly who carries the film. I was not expecting that from him, but he executed it brilliantly. Although he was a brash man, and a sharp shooter, we see that he has a tender side. He makes sure his horses are safe and tends to them as if they were his children. When he encounters a prostitute, he talks to her, instead of doing anything else. I am sure unheard of in any western town of that era.
We don’t ever see a feminine perspective throughout the film, instead we get a deeper interpretation into a male point of view. I thought the movie was well done, but the plot was somewhat lacking. Regardless, the actors gave good performances and it is worth a watch.
Starring: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rebecca Root, Allison Tolman, Rutger Hauer, Carol Kane
Directed by: Jacques Audiard
Written by: Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain (screenplay)
Patrick DeWitt (book author)
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 121 minutes