Jacques Audiard‘s The Sisters Brothers (Annapurna, 9.21) is a grimy, gunky wad of episodic, half-comedic western nihilism — aimless, wandering, constant gunplay and fuck-all violence at nearly every turn. It ambles and shuffles along in a loose, tension-free way that tests your patience and has you begging for a conclusion at the one-hour mark. Unfortunately you have to sit there for another full hour.
At the very beginning there’s a cool-looking nocturnal gunfight in which extra-bright lightning gun blasts illuminate the darkness a bit more than they probably would in actuality. That’s the one thing I genuinely admired about this film.
Otherwise I found the second half agonizing. Almost everyone dies in a fairly brutal and bloody way, and all the characters, it seems, are negligible and not worth giving a fuck about, and none of it amounts to squat. Everyone has bad teeth and is covered in grease and dirt or are dressed in smelly boots and stinky socks or a combination of all five, and it’s all on the level of “Jesus H. Christ, what did Audiard and Annapurna see in this material? Dear God, please…lemme outta here.”
Except I was stuck in the middle of a big IMAX theatre (#12 in the Scotiabank plex) with about 15 people to step over or around on either side, and I was asking myself “which is worse, staying to the end or irritating all these people as I make my way out?” I decided it would be more honorable to tough it out.
John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix play the titular characters. Reilly’s Eli is the wiser, gentler and more thoughtful of the two, or at least is less grunty than Phoenix’s Charlie Sisters, and so he delivers a more affecting performance. (I guess.) Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed are of passing interest (good acting but I couldn’t have cared less about their characters) in supporting roles. Rutger Hauer plays the Commodore, the Sisters Brothers’ boss. I didn’t even recognize Carol Kane, who appears at the very end as Reilly and Phoenix’s mother.