In 1850s Oregon, the infamous duo of assassins, Eli and Charlie Sisters, chase a gold prospector and his unexpected ally.
‘The Sisters Brothers’ is an odd little film from the celebrated French director Jacques Audiard, marking his first film in the English language. The film was a failure at the US Box Office and had a sizeable budget for a film of this nature, which is essentially a low-key genre western, always likely to have niche appeal despite a strong cast. Set at the outset of the California Gold Rush, ‘The Sisters Brothers’ centres on the attempts of several men to track down Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed), a gifted scientist who believes he has developed a formula to easily identify pockets of gold in the ground.
Starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as the titular ‘Sisters Brothers’ (that is two brothers with the surname ‘Sisters’), the film is about these two men setting off to track Hermann Warm, who their employer (a briefly appearing Rutger Hauer) claims has stolen from him. The brothers are feared assassins but they are not perfect employees, mainly due to Charlie’s (Phoenix) excessive drinking slowing them down and a series of misfortunes on their journey, which allows the man they’re tracking to escape with the help of another private detective (Jake Gyllenhaal). Like many westerns the film is less about the plot itself and more concerned with the thematic elements of the story, the push and pull between right and wrong in a lawless society, and the moral dilemmas faced by often immoral men. First and foremost its an enjoyable film, with a good camaraderie between Reilly and Phoenix and its well crafted by a director with a good grasp on his characters and the world in which they occupy, but it never really rises above standard western fare.
As much as I enjoyed the performances the journey never truly satisfied me, and I felt it was often caught between the desire to play the material for laughs or with a darker slant, regularly trying to do both with ineffective results. ‘The Sisters Brothers’ is worth seeking out for western fans but it has to go down as a slight disappointment given the quality of cast and the quality of Jacques Audiard’s previous works.
Directed By: Jacques Audiard
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Riz Ahmed, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Root, Allison Tolman, Rutger Hauer and Carol Kane