The Sisters Brothers Review

You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.

We’re stuck with the bloodline we’re born into, for better or worse, and the only thing we can really control is just how far we’re willing to go to help one of our own.

For one half of The Sisters Brothers, there seems to be no end to the lengths he’ll travel in support of his kin.

It’s the gold rush era of the late 19th century and Eli and Charlie Sisters – The Sisters Brothers – are a couple of contract killers under the employ of The Commodore.

This man of wealth and privilege has tasked our brothers in arms with tracking down pioneering prospector Hermann Warm, who has a golden secret he’s busily refining.

With the help of a private detective by the name of John Morris, Eli and Charlie are soon hot on the trail of Warm as he journeys to San Francisco in search of his fortune and a better way of life.

But as the obstacles mount up for the Sisters Brothers, will blood prove to be thicker than water?

And, even more importantly, gold?

Based on Patrick deWitt’s novel of the same name, The Sisters Brothers is a western come comedy by French director Jacques Audiard.

Choosing a genre that’s as american as bourbon or gun-smoke is a bold move, even more so when you realise this is Audiard’s first english language movie, but you can’t help the feeling that something’s been lost in translation.

Though it looks like a western, The Sisters Brothers is essentially a character piece driven by our french auteur’s examination of sibling rivalry; John C Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix play the feuding Eli and Charlie Sisters, while Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed end up becoming an unlikely pair of brothers – in deed, if not name.

All four take it in turns to carry this cowboy saga, but it’s Reilly who stands out – with the hangdog expression he wears rarely changing as he cleans up the rabid mess his feckless brother’s behaviour brings… something most any sibling can relate to.

The idealistic political views of Warm and Morris hint at a deeper message, but this is never explicitly explored – perhaps The Sisters Brothers underlying theme is how unnecessary war and violence are in a more utopian and socialist society?

The only bum note for me is the ending, as the neatly wrapped climax feels far too jarring from the chaos and violence that preceded it.

Nonetheless, The Sisters Brothers is an enjoyable departure from a typical western and the fraternal chemistry between Reilly and Phoenix is all too believable and relatable.

Brothers can be entirely opposite in their opinions, mannerisms and views but we can also share a bond that no one else has.

So we don’t get to choose our own family, but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

Andrew Campbell

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