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Movie Review: ‘The Sisters Brothers’ is the Ultimately Charming Tale of Two Fraternal Wild West Hitmen

CREDIT: Magali Bragard/Annapurna Pictures

Starring: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed

Director: Jacques Audiard

Running Time: 121 Minutes

Rating: R for Wild West Gunfire, Saloon-Based Vices, and the Aftereffects of a Spider Crawling Into Someone’s Mouth

Release Date: September 21, 2018 (Limited)

John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix have teamed up as a couple of brothers whose last name is “Sisters.” Reilly is Eli and Phoenix is Charlie. They’re killers-for-hire out on the frontier in the middle of the 19th century, but eliminating their marks just is not their preferred way of spending their time, plain and simple. Charlie is too busy drinking and whoring, while Eli has too much of a conscience to last too long in this business (and honestly so does Charlie). There are plenty of people who don’t like their jobs, and plenty of movies about that predicament. Certainly, “the hitman who wants to get out of the game” is a tried-and-true trope. But this is different from your John Wick‘s or your Sexy Beast‘s. Eli and Charlie aren’t hard-bitten, they’re just tired and would prefer to find something to be happy about.

The Sisters’ target is Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), a chemist who has devised a new method for discovering gold. It seems a little fantastical in theory, but Warm sounds like he knows what he is talking about. So when Eli and Charlie catch up to him, they decide they would much rather collaborate than kill. Same goes for Detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who was supposed to be aiding the Sisters in this assignment but instead becomes drawn into Warm’s machinations. (This team-up is miles away from Gyllenhaal and Ahmed’s partnership in Nightcrawler, with the two giving performances that barely share any DNA with those earlier roles.) It’s heartening watching this quartet work together, for while riches do play a motivating factor, they are really more after a more general sense of fulfillment. The menace of the boss coming to collect is always lurking, but the moments of finding a mutual understanding (along with Alexandre Desplat’s surprisingly jazzy score) are enough to convince you to focus on life’s pleasures where you can find them.

The Sisters Brothers is Recommended If You Like: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix When They’re a Little (But Not Completely) Goofy

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Gold Sifters

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