The Sisters Brothers Aren’t Sissies

“The Sisters Brothers” is a western directed by Jacques Audiard and stars Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, and Jake Gyllenhaal.  It is one of the better ones in the genre in recent years.  It is gritty and violent but also has some complicated characters and dynamics at times.

Eli and Charlie Sisters are brothers who work as hired assassins in the Pacific Northwest in 1851.  They are sent by a mysterious crime lord known as the Commodore to hunt down a prospector who is a talented enough chemist to concoct a formula that can reveal the presence of gold in the riverbeds.

There are times that the pacing seems strangely slow for a western. When violence does erupt, it is brutally realistic for the most part. The film has plenty of beautiful scenery throughout which seems a bit ironic considering the gruesome body count often left in the wake of the Sisters Brothers.

This is a talented cast, but Reilly really stands out as Eli Sisters, a man capable of effective violence when the situation calls for it but one who does not relish it in the manner of Phoenix’s Charlie.  Reilly has some compelling and at times moving scenes such as when he opens up to Hermann Kermit Warm, the disarming chemist played by Riz Ahmed and tells of the tragic childhood that precipitated the violent career path of the Sisters Brothers.

There are times when the film appears predictable, but it manages to throw in some unexpected twists.  There are some moments that require a bit of a patience before the action resumes, but this is as much a character study mixed into the traditional western trappings.

All of the performances were solid, and I was impressed that Rutger Hauer appears as the Commodore, although those appearances are very limited. The Commodore seems more of a mostly unseen menace than an actual person. Although it would have been interesting to actually see Hauer say some lines and interact with the other cast members, his sort of cameo presence works too.

I may need to see this movie again to see some of the other more subtle aspects and nuances of the film, but I certainly hope this gains some more significant viewings and appreciation.

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