The Sisters Brothers Is An Award Worthy Effort With A Stellar Cast

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John C. Reilly plays the fool better than most, but don't fool yourself. Remember the lesson of Denzel Washington in Training Day -- good actors can play any role. After seeing The Sisters Brothers you'll view John C. Reilly as a much better actor than you ever expected. 

Reilly, who also produced the film, is phenomenal as Eli Sisters, older brother of Charlie Sisters, played by the equally mesmerizing Joaquin Phoenix. The Sisters are professional assassins in the employee of The Commodore (Rutger Hauer in a role that surely must be the easiest salary he’s ever drawn), a wild west “kingpin” of sorts. You don’t want to cross him. Chemist Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed) ends up on The Commodore’s bad side after making off with a secret formula for identifying gold in river beds, which would change the entire course of the California Gold Rush. The Commodore sends former Pinkerton Detective John Morris, played perfectly by Jake Gyllenhaal, to gain Mr. Warm’s trust—and the formula—before holding him for execution by the Sisters brothers. Warm is a charming fellow, and ends up winning The Commodore’s men over and all four set to work on winning the Gold Rush. Charlie Sisters’ brashness costs them all dearly, and sets the brothers on a path to an epic confrontation with The Commodore.  

The film, the first English language film by French director Jacques Audiard, is a visually artistic character study, exploring concepts of family, duty, greed and redemption. Sure, there are gunfights--the Sisters Brothers are lethal with their six-shooters. Audiard and his cinematographer Benoît Debie build the story on a collection interesting shots and engaging imagery. Little moments in this picture mean just as much as major plot points. The Sisters aren’t nice people, but there is warmth to them, particularly Eli.  There’s humor, but it’s not overplayed or slapstick. There’s violence, but it’s not at all what the story is about. It’s an arthouse western, and boy howdy there ought to be more of them.

Phoenix is always an intriguing actor, and here he is rather subdued. Of the brothers, he’s the one that always gets in over  his head. Reilly’s Eli is the dutiful big brother who bails him out of trouble. The interplay between the two actors is riveting. Good chemistry is something Hollywood seems to overlook too often these days in the pursuit of by-the-numbers blockbuster fare. Add Gyllenhaal and Ahmed to the mix and the results are fascinating. The film is talky without being Deadpool; it’s paced at a saunter rather than a gallop, and yet it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome; it’s violent when it has to be, more for historical accuracy than for the sake of violence. Audiard’s first English language film is, in short, a masterpiece that should be studied in film schools everywhere for years to come.

Expect The Sisters Brothers to be the first of a slew of films to get major award consideration.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0