The Sisters Brothers review
When it comes to westerns in film, they seem to sit within two different camps; one being more fun, such as the John Wayne films, showcasing the beauty of the deserts and canyons. The other shows a darker, grittier west, a lot like in "The Man with No Name" trilogy, which shows the west as more brutal and unforgiving. While I don't have a preference over the other (it depends on the story presented), it does honestly portray an environment that had different perspectives. Like a lot of people who never lived through a time period, we can only draw our own pictures on how we want to see the old west.
There are even those rare instances in which someone can balance out both. That's not easy to do, given the distinct styles, but it can be done. There are even times in which the old west can be weird. A lot like those Mad Maxmovies, the frontier was so mysterious with little control, that the deserts and small towns could take on identities and looks that are all their own. We can see how these guys look compared to the rest of the west in The Sisters Brothers.
Two hitmen for hire, Eli Sisters (played by John C. Reilly) and Charlie Sisters (played by Joaquin Phoenix) are in the pocket of a man only known as the Commodore, who take another assignment to hunt for a man named Hermann Warm. The brothers make their way in the frontier, but deal with a lot of dangers that were commonplace. Much of it includes a sickness-inducing spider bite for Eli and Charlie's constant drunken buffoonery. Even at a point where the two end up in their first luxury hotel that includes hot water and a flushing toilet, they still manage to fight and threaten to kill each other.
Meanwhile, another detective John Morris (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) manages to track and confront Hermann Warm (played by Riz Ahmed). It turns out that Warm is on his way to northern California to find gold, using a new chemical substance that could help track it in the water. Though Morris initially tries to arrest him, he does become intrigued by the possibility, show he goes with Warm to see if this could be done. At the same time, the Sisters brothers are following them in hot pursuit, following their orders.
I have to commend director Jacques Audiard for attempting more of a cross between these different kinds of westerns with a little comedy thrown in. The result is a movie that does have it's moments, but is going to come off as too dry for some people (including myself). The Sisters Brothers is something that I can completely call bad. There were moments in which I was getting board. A lot of that has to do with the writing, but doesn't have a lot of personality. In fact, a lot of it is unforgiving in it's cruelty and more random moments. It reminds me of similar writing on Game of Thrones. This is the moment that is either going make you like this or not.
I will say that the best thing in the movie, are the performances. Even with the little personalities given, John C. Riley and Joaquin Phoenix, they do have a lot of good banter as brothers would. What separates them from another western team like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is that they are more vulnerable and even willing to make mistakes. This is probably the other feature the will draw audiences. This is one of the things that I did really enjoy.
I think what throws me off is the structure and pacing of The Sisters Brothers. There is a goal of reaching these guys who say they can use science to find gold, but it can either become sidetracked and even abandoned all together (I won't say what happens). I think because there is a set goal in mind, it all matters whether the movie's material can offer a payoff. Given how little we know what the leads care about even with their flaws, it's hard to become passionate about the movie if it seems to not care.
I'll give this three gold rush nuggets out of five. Like the real prospectors of the old west, I too had trouble finding a goldmine, but I did find something of worth. I could see a lot of people getting into the more anarchic-style of movie with The Sisters Brothers. I can clearly see that this did come from a place of passion. I just don't think this was for me. Perhaps you may find some gold I didn't see.