The Sisters Brothers - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Sisters Brothers Reviews

Page 1 of 8
½ April 15, 2019
A plodding and overlong tale of violence and redemption that doesn't seem to know quite what it's trying to say

On the surface, The Sisters Brothers is a Revisionist Western with a gritty Spaghetti aesthetic focusing on a group of anti-heroes, but it's also a tale of avarice, a chase movie, a dark comedy, a tragic fable, a look at the modernisation of the Old West, a study of competing types of masculinity, and even a political thesis. The English language debut of director Jacques Audiard, who adapted the script with his regular writing partner Thomas Bidegain from Patrick deWitt's 2011 novel of the same name, unfortunately, it did little for me. I wouldn't say it's a bad movie, as it clearly has a lot going for it. However, its episodic rhythm, bifurcated narrative structure, and poorly-defined morality left me unengaged, frustrated, and rather bored.

Set in 1851, the film tells the story of Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) and his older brother Eli (John C. Reilly), hired guns looking for Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), a mild-manner chemist who has created an elixir that when poured into a river, will illuminate any gold deposits on the river bed. Following tracker John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is to detain Warm until the brothers catch up, the mission proves to be a lot more than they bargained for.

Highly revisionist, The Sisters Brothers gives us all the genre's tropes, but from unexpected angles; men ride horses, but when a horse is mortally wounded, the man to whom he belongs cries and apologises; whisky is drunk aplenty, but one character would rather sit alone thinking about home; the anticipated climatic shootout plays out in a manner you'll never see coming. Yes, this is the Old West of Sergio Leone, but Audiard defamiliarises it as much as possible. Men ride horses, but when a horse is mortally wounded, the man to whom he belongs cries and apologises; whisky is drunk aplenty, but one character would rather sit alone thinking about home; the anticipated climatic shootout plays out in a manner you'll never see coming.

However, Audiard is not naive enough to suggest that the Old West was peaceful. But even here, he subverts genre, using a recurring motif of either Charlie or Eli shooting an already downed opponent pleading for his life, which is not what we're used to from the protagonists of Hollywood westerns.

In terms of acting, Phoenix, Gyllenhaal, and Ahmed all have moments to shine, but this is Reilly's film. His nuanced performance allows us to see that Eli's conscience is beginning to affect him, causing him to drift away from the increasingly amoral Charlie. His unexpected affection for his horse is especially poignant, and his tendency to sniff a shawl given to him by his girlfriend is beautifully played.

However, for all this, I disliked the film. I found it far too episodic, lurching from one incident to next with little connective tissue. I also didn't particularly like the shifts in focus from the brothers to Morris and Warm, making it impossible for either to fully settle. A knock-on from this is that it's difficult to figure out where one's empathy is supposed to lie. This becomes especially problematic in relation to the morally questionable d 1/2 (C)nouement, which seems designed for the audience to roundly condemn one of the main characters, only for the film to then give us a 15-minute epilogue designed to redeem him. This throws into relief what for me was the most egregious problem - none of what we see seems to mean anything, there are virtually no consequences for anything the brothers do (although plenty of consequences for others). This left me scratching my head as to what the film is trying to say.

As a kind of an aside, it's also worth mentioning an aesthetic decision that has me baffled. On occasion, the film is shot within a circular frame (think of how films often simulate POV through a telescope), often combined with racked focus and unsteady photography. I'm assuming the idea is to try to replicate the style of a Kinetograph, but given that device wouldn't be invented for another four decades, I'm not entirely sure what the point is. An especially strange example is a scene in which Charlie speaks direct-to-camera, the only example of such in the whole film. Is this a break in the fourth wall, and if so, why?

The four performances at the heart of The Sisters Brothers earn it a great deal of leeway. But even taking that into account, I couldn't get into it. Far too plodding and thematically unfocused, it's original in how it approaches generic tropes, but the poorly constructed episodic narrative saps away the good will built up by the acting. Is it a western? A comedy? A tragedy? An esoteric political piece? A realist depiction of greed trumping idealism? In the end, it doesn't seem to know itself, trying to be many things, and ending up being none of them.
April 14, 2019
Set in 1850s Oregon, this Western is essentially a story of two cowboys chasing after two other cowboys heading west across the continent. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix plays the infamous assassin brothers who's been tasked by their Commodore (a silent cameo by Rutget Hauer) to extract, by any means possible, a secret formula from Riz Ahmed's Hermann Kermit Warm, whom Jake Gyllenhaal's John Morris has already tracked down and befriended. Portrayed neither as heroes nor villains and punctuated by charming and humanizing moments such as their first encounter with a toothbrush, they come across foremost as flesh and bones characters who do not entirely buy into the usual Western cowboy stereotypes. Within this 4-hander, there are solid and captivating performances, particularly with a lighter and more engaging Phoenix having fun with his role, while Reilly continues, after Stan & Ollie, to find nuance and layers in his work away with Will Ferrell. However, credit is mostly due to French director and co-writer Jacques Audiard who manages to combine a neat and economically written script that actually gives us geographical and chronological precision, beautiful and cinematic photography of the barren landscape that they are engulfed in, fluid directing and a great sense of humour and compassion for his characters in order to tell a wonderfully human story, pure and simple. I must admit I'm not a fan of Westerns, but Audiard's playful yet thoughtful way with genre tropes is most refreshing and appealing. In a move that's unexpectedly deflating yet no less satisfying, he swaps a potentially violent showdown in the end for a poignant and moving montage that feels well-earned and right at home with this film's alternative but faithful take on the genre and proves the power of elegant storytelling at its best.
April 13, 2019
I loved this film. It's poignant, funny, sad, cruel and a great story. Beautifully filmed too.
April 12, 2019
Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

This gem of a film, so well written, directed and performed never made money, but why? Based on the superb novel by Patrick De Witt, it is a marvellous western starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as the brothers, hitmen for the Commodore (Rutger Hauer). They are after a chemist who can find gold by adding chemicals to the water. Much that follows is funny, unexpected, moving and profound.

The French co-writer and director Jacques Audiard does a marvellous job. It is like a Coen Brothers movie without the absurdity and slapstick. It is beautifully shot, and though long, never has an extra frame - it is nearly perfect.

So if you like your storytelling adult, a bit obtuse and wonderfully delivered, I would recommend TSB. It is not a Marvel movie, but it is marvellous.. See it.
April 10, 2019
Nothing to see here.
I read the brief description of the movie and was very much looking forward to seeing this, having especially liked Rust and Bone. Unfortunately, nothing about the movie interested me, and I actually walked out at the 1 hour mark.

I can't remember the last time I walked out of a movie. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for watching anything today. But I simply found nothing likable in the first hour, and I saw no story or plot developing that I could be interested in. I found the acting dull and flat, and the dialog trivial. While I couldn't quite place which other movies I'd seen them in, several of the scenes felt familiar - somehow Brokeback Mountain and Dances with Wolves comes to mind.

Perhaps I have missed getting to the part where it all ties together and makes for a satisfying viewing experience - but today I ran out of patience.
April 8, 2019
A salable non-traditional Western.
½ April 8, 2019
If The Sisters Brothers works, it works for the one reason that is the leading men Reilly and Phoenix. Their performances give life to their complex characters in a beautifully shot film. But there's little to find appealing after looking further and after the first hour the film starts to appear for what it really is: A slow, wordy and depressing western drama.
April 6, 2019
I was really looking forward to seeing this movie and expected it on par with 'true grit' but it was a let down for myself, long, slow and not much action with an unimaginative ending. The brothers (Reilly/pheonix) played their parts well but westerns and gun slinging go hand in hand yet there was very little and therefore doesn't even make my 'one to watch' list. 'A prophet' by the same director is one of my favourites (haven't seen 'rust and bone') so maybe there was restraints or I just didn't get it. Gyllenhaal must of been expensive but had no impact in the movie so the role could of been played by a semi familiar face.
½ April 4, 2019
And in the end, all you have is your family. Aside from all ambitions, loe interests, greed and whatnot. Family, that is the only thing that is forever.
In good and ill.

Not much flashiness or stunning this or that. Life is hard and if you are lucky you still have some family.
½ March 31, 2019
If you ever thought the wild, wild, west was glamorous -- this well-acted film will cure you! Movie is well-shot and locations were incredible; but it's the dialogue-- and lots of it -- that will either pull you in (or turn you off): that is the core of the story.
March 20, 2019
The Sisters Brothers is a unique and different western and for that reason alone it is a vastly interesting and entertaining film. It's point of difference begins at the creation. Firstly it is directed by the French master Jacques Audiard (his first English language film) and it was also shot in Spain rather than the Western states of the USA, where it is set. The film tells the story of two brothers whose name is Sisters. Charlie and Eli are brothers who are hired gun men for rich and powerful men in Oregon in the 1850s. Their latest task sets them on the trail of a man who apparently has a secret formula for mining gold. They are aided by a tracking scout whose plans change half way through his task. This gorgeous film is lyrical and contemplative. It's darkly funny but it's not a comedy. It's dramatically strong but not overly heavy. There are gunfights but the best moments are studied moments of conversation. Perhaps its idiosyncratic nature is why it failed at the box office. But this is a film not to be underestimated. Thanks mainly to an extremely talented cast. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix absolutely shine as the brothers and Jake Gyllenhaal is his usual greatness as the refined and poetic scout. This film has many charms. It goes to unexpected places and contains twists to certainly delight.
March 19, 2019
It's very nice to see that the western genre is still not completely dead, and that some of the movies set in that area still has some new things to say. The Sister Brothers is a great example for this, following two unlikely couples and their road towards each other, which cannot end good for both of them. The world portrayed here is not the traditional, heroic wild west, rather than a place where no one's life is certain, and that it cannot be survived without someone we care about.
March 19, 2019
The movie was genuinely awful, don't waste your time if you are a western fan
March 18, 2019
Fantastic Western Drama. With focus on the drama and morbid comedy. Go to watch!
March 16, 2019
there were no sisters in this until captain marvel showed up....then she left .....and it was better
½ March 10, 2019
Too tough to follow.
March 8, 2019
Fairly good, for a Western movie... Very simple, like all Western movies, with lots of gunfighting, sickness, & score settling...
March 7, 2019
great movie. nice western. WORTH THE WATCH.**
½ March 6, 2019
Jacques Audiard goes Hollywood and English and teams up with big names like John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Two brothers, with last name "Sisters" are assassing they're way trough the 1850s. They are quite the duo and connects with a gold prospector named John Morris. It start's of pretty weak and flat for me and it never really interests me until an hour or so - that's when the story really starts for me.

I dig the scene where they search for gold in the little pond and the rest of the film after that part is pretty sweet. I never paid enough attention to it, to be honest, but the film must take a huge part of that matter. It's OK, with both nice visual features and an OK story.

It's like a western with a humorous take at times, but it's also pretty ugly and raw in other moments. The mixing is not the best for me so I guess I found this piece pretty mediocre.

5.5 out of 10 shawls.
Page 1 of 8