But who’s the sister?
It’s 1851 and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli (John C. Reilly) are two brothers who also double as hitmen. While it’s hard to say that they enjoy their jobs, per se, they get by on it because they get to travel, meet all sorts of people, have fun, and most importantly, stick together as a family-duo. Lately, however, Eli has been getting that itch to finally sit back and settle down; maybe find a wife, have a couple of kids, and settle off somewhere in the sunset, where he can’t be bothered and surrounded by constant death. While Charlie isn’t too happy about this, he decides that it’s best for the both of them to take on one last job to end all jobs, which has them hot on the trails for Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed), a man who has stolen from their employer. But while they are on the tracks of Warm, the plan goes awry when he meets John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), an inventor and philanthropist who shares nearly the same ambitions and ideals as Warm, allowing the two to go off and do their own thing. This obviously screws over the brothers and their left to wonder just what to do and how the hell to survive it all.
The Sisters Brothers is one of those tricky movies that starts off as one interesting movie, only to then totally switch its gears up about halfway through and, unfortunately, become less interesting. Still, as a whole, it’s nice to see French director Jacques Audiard, who has been making some truly great movies in the past two decades, make his American debut and make something that’s weird, off-kilter, and very fresh. You can tell that someone like Auidard, who now has a lot of money at his disposal and can do a lot of the stuff he may not have been able to do in the smaller, more compact confides of his French films.
All of which are very good and you should definitely see.
But regardless, with the Sisters Brothers, Auidard is clearly relishing in the moment and for awhile, it’s hard not to get sucked-up into it. The movie always has an darkly comedic feel to it, where certain things, like gruesome and bloody killings that probably shouldn’t be funny, are, or small, almost depressing scenes, take on a far more sillier tone when you get to think of them. Auidard keeps a relatively bizarre and odd tone throughout the whole movie, which doesn’t make it totally jarring when the movie decides to switch gears about halfway through and become, well, something far more serious and deadly.
Yet, at the same time, it still has the ability to chuckle about its own extremities? See, the Sisters Brothers in an odd movie that makes it almost impossible to classify, yet, almost nearly more impossible to really fall in love with. It’s not pretentious in the sense that most French movies have been criticized as being, but it’s also just its own breed and for that, it deserves to be seen and possibly enjoyed.
Loved and adored? Probably not.
It is easy, though, to like the Sisters Brothers a whole lot more with this great cast. Phoenix and Reilly surprisingly work great as brothers, not because they have actual chemistry (they do), but because there’s an attention to their characters that are compelling; Phoenix is a total drunk who needs to kill in his sad-sack of a life, whereas Reilly, underneath all the killing that he does, really just wants to stop it all and go back to when things were simpler. They evolve over time and it’s neat to see these two together, especially with Phoenix trying on something that’s a little lighter than what we’re used to seeing him with.
Same goes for Gyllenhaal and Ahmed, who are both relishing in their time together again since Nightcrawler. This time, it’s a bit different, as they are both playing some odd characters, yet still making every scene they have together pure gold. A part of me was still holding out hope that we’d get more screen-time between Phoenix and Gyllenhaal (aka, two of the best actors working today), but with the time we get, I’ll take it.
For now, that is. Next time, give me more.
Consensus: Odd as it is, the Sisters Brothers also has to balance out its several tones and for the most part, due to a talented ensemble and attention to detail by Audiard, is mildly successful.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Annapurna Pictures