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Review: The Sisters Brothers (TIFF 2018)

The Sisters Brothers (TIFF 2018)
09.07.2018
8 10

PLOT: Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) Sisters are two of the wild west’s deadliest assassins. While Eli yearns to settle down, Charlie is hellbent on cozying up to their boss, The Commodore, and soon the two find themselves sent to track down a chemist (Riz Ahmed) with a potentially priceless formula. Their mission is complicated by a colleague, John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who finds his loyalties divided.

REVIEW: Jacques Audiard’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS (based on a popular Canadian novel by Patrick deWitt) is the type of genre mash-up revisionist western a guy like Robert Altman would have made in the seventies. Not quite a comedy, but not quite a drama either, THE SISTERS BROTHERS is among the more unusual, big-budget prestige offerings to play the festival this year. It won’t be to all tastes, but it’s utterly unique and offers John C. Reilly what is maybe one of his half-dozen finest roles and a rare lead for this often undervalued actor who seems primed to move into the Gene Hackman-style prime of middle age.

His Eli Sisters is the protagonist here, being the goofy but surprisingly sensitive half of the type of stone-cold killing team that would be the antagonists in most westerns, They kill without remorse or hesitation, but hey, it’s a living, albeit one Eli’s pretty sick of. Reilly really gets to demonstrate his amazing gift for mixing humour and pathos, with scenes initially played for comic effect turning on a dime into seriousness, such as a tender moment with a prostitute (a cameo by the great Allison Tolman) or his interactions with his aged horse. He’s also shown to be impeccably deadly with a revolver, much more so than his wild, unpredictable younger brother, who takes the lead in their adventures.

His chemistry with Phoenix is matchless, with the two selling the right amount of affection mixed with hostility to make them believable as brothers. Phoenix plays Charlie as dangerously volatile, but not without pathos of his own, especially in the last act. The two are well-supported by Jake Gyllenhaal, in a meaty part as an erudite detective working with the pair, and Riz Ahmed as their likeable prey. How their chase plays out winds up being one of the biggest surprises of the movie, and Audiard shows a real talent for moving from comedy, to action, to drama, to sweetness and back again. Nothing in Audiard’s (admittedly great) filmography made me think he’d be such an ideal choice for a movie that cries out for The Coen Bros., but he brings a unique perspective to it.

It should also be said that technically, the film is exquisitely crafted, with a good score by Alexandre Desplat and cinematography by Benoit Debie, although its shot mostly with natural light making it intentionally hard to make out at times. An opening gunfight in a nearly pitch black setting, as well as virtually any other scene at night demands impeccable projection. Given how lax theatres are with their projection standards, this is one that you should only see at a theatre you takes that kind of thing seriously

Hopefully, this Annapurna release will make enough money to keep unconventional, but relatively epic movies like this being made. Certainly, Reilly seems primed to make some noise this awards season and if you’re a fan of the off-kilter, this is one to seek out.


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Source: JoBlo.com

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