The Sisters Brothers gallops on screen with a lot of ambitions, and it fulfills them all. It’s a sprawling Western that’s also an intimate character piece; it has moments of wit but also devastating tragedy; it delves into larger themes like the impact of fathers upon sons, and how greed and industrialization lead to environmental devastation, and yet it offers the hope of redemption.
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It’s the stirring chemistry between Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly as committed siblings that transforms these lively, violent circumstances into a sweet and intimate journey designed to catch acolytes of the genre off-guard.
After the profanity-laced Shakespearean barrage of Deadwood, Dewitt and Audiard’s Wild West is a more prosaic place, but it is also sharply intelligent, extremely funny and full of surprises.
I enjoyed the film as far is it goes, especially John C. Reilly’s straight-shooter performance, yet I also found myself, at certain points, growing impatient with it.
Audiard’s storytelling has an easy swing to it, his dialogue is garrulous and unsentimental, and the narrative is exotically offbeat.
Audiard’s expressionistic flourishes are in shorter supply here than usual, although the shootouts have a dreamlike quality, with pistols blasting showers of sparks like miniature steam train funnels.
A movie about manhood, brotherhood and the unexpected bonds of fraternity, explored in all their brutality and twisted humor, The Sisters Brothers presents the cruel hostilities of the world, the innocence lost in the madness and the possibilities of a humanity still to be found scattered through the debris of American carnage.
This is a Western which is rugged and raw, eschewing the genre’s mythmaking for something a little more off the beaten path.
This first English-language outing by the ever-adventurous French director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone) is a connoisseur’s delight, as it's boisterously acted and detailed down to its last bit of shirt stitching.
Individual scenes absorb, and the film lives and dies by its performances, but the macro problem seems to be that The Sisters Brothers can’t quite transcend its imitation atmosphere. Audiard and his cinematographer Benoît Debie nail the Western aesthetic, but neither can grasp the feeling. This wouldn’t be an issue if Audiard had postmodern aspirations, but The Sisters Brothers wants to be in conversation with the genre while still retaining a sincere, unwinking approach.