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Review: The Sisters Brothers

It seems the western will never die. The allure of rugged men out there slinging guns and making their fortunes panning for gold was too much for French director Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone, The Prophet) to pass up. And he didn’t’ even have to come to the US of A to shoot this his adaptation of Patrick deWitt’s rambling, sometimes funny novel. Who knew Spain and Romania could stand in for the American West? What The Sisters Brothers has going for it mainly is a great cast — Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Riz Ahmed — and you’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s enough to make it worth your while.

The gist of the tale is: 1850s Oregon. The big boss known as The Commodore (Rutger Hauer in a wasted role) sends the Sisters brothers Eli (Reilly) and Charlie (Phoenix) out and kill a guy for him. That’s what they do for a living. The Commodore has already sent a tracker named Morris out to find the guy, a young scientist named Hermann Kermit Warm. Morris is supposed to hold on to him once he’s found him so the brothers can finish him off. Only once he meets Warm and hears the story of why he’s on the Commodore’s hit list, and he changes his mind about handing him over, and leads the brothers on a chase for them both. And eventually they’re all in the same place, but before you know it they’ve all become partners and friends.

The brothers’ relationship at the center of the film. Eli is the big brother, and he’s tired of this life and wants to settle down and have a family. But Charlie can’t imaging doing anything else. He’s a drunk and Eli has to take care of him. There’s a lot sibling bickering and a few scenes that explain how they got to be who they are. And their story is eventually wrapped up in a pretty little bow. But I wasn’t really invested in the Sisters brothers. They’re really just a couple of not too bright men with no remorse who get away with murder.

More interesting were the other main characters, Morris and Warm. For a good part of the film the action switches back and forth between the brothers and them. And they were the characters I came away from the film appreciating most. They were the ones with a story, not just a series of horseback meanderings and murders. And maybe it was because they were decent people. It would have been a more interesting film with them at the center. The Sisters Brothers is filled with beautiful scenery, and the cast all do their best, but ultimately, the weak script makes it hard for me to recommend.

Rated ‘R’ for caRnage.


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