The Sisters Brothers

We have riffed before about the help a clever film title brings in the marketplace. In this case, a quick glance at the title engenders a double take, and further consideration. The tagline is equally effective: “Brothers by Blood, Sisters by Name.”

What we end up being seduced by is a dark comedy Western, not an overpopulated genre. The film is ably held together by the titular duo of the ever-appealing John C. Reilly and the often-enigmatic Joaquin Phoenix. They play Charlie and Eli Sisters, guns for hire.

Their assignment on behalf of a shady industrialist (Rutger Hauer) takes the pair to San Francisco, where the Gold Rush populates the area with a range of characters. The search for gold permeates the meandering plotline, and with shades of “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” the lust for the lucre has its consequences.

Reilly has taken on a Gene Hackman-like stature: always good no matter how bad the film. Reilly has shone in prior films like “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” Adam McKay’s “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and the somewhat confusingly similarly named “Step Brothers.” Reilly also played a key role in “Boogie Nights.” That range of comedy should give you an idea of his role in “The Sisters Brothers.” He is seemingly slow on the uptake, but always quick with delivering well-timed dialogue.

Phoenix channels a bit of his charismatic roles in “Walk the Line” and “The Master,” but too often evokes an enigmatic air that confuses the proceedings.

Look for decent performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Carol Kane, the brothers’ mother.

Also, Alexandre Desplat lends his ever-eclectic approach to the score, to satisfying results.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.