The Sisters Brothers (2018)

The Sisters Brothers is a darkly funny, revisionist Western about assassin siblings directed by Jacques Audiard.

Chums on the Run

by Alexa Dalby

The Sisters Brothers

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Revisionist Westerns are trending. Here now is one of the latest, the post-modern The Sisters Brothers, a dark comedy about notorious assassin siblings romping through the 1850s west coast of the US from Oregon to San Francisco.

Its wonderful cast features John C. Reilly (also on a roll at the moment) as Eli Sisters, the more sensitive and intelligent of the two brothers, more open to new-fangled inventions like the toothbrush. Joaquin Phoenix is Charlie Sisters, a volatile, unpredictable drunk. Their task is to pursue chemist Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed, looking frail and weedy in comparison), who apparently has stolen something from their mysterious boss, the Commodore (Rutger Hauer). Unknown to them, he has also put a tracker detective on Warm’s trail (a savvy Jake Gyllenhaal), and he’s got closer to Warm than them, also finding out that among Warm’s plans is to create a utopian community in Texas.

We follow the four men, the two brothers chasing the other two more educated and intellectual men, through beautiful virgin country, brothels, their first ever sight of the ocean, and crosses and double crosses to San Francisco. To the unsophisticated brothers, it’s a Babylon of a metropolis. Along the way the truth about how Warm’s plans will be financed comes out and they discover others are after them. The resultant bonding between the four men starts to turn what was a planned assassination into something bizarrely resembling an all-boys-together idyllic camping holiday with dips in a natural pool and chinwags round the campfire.

The Sisters Brothers is directed by Jacques Audiard (Dheepan, Rust and Bone) from a screenplay he co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain, based on the novel of the same name by Patrick deWitt. It’s his first work in the English language and it’s darkly funny, as violent as you would expect a film about assassins to be, and knowingly subversive of the Western myth.

The Sisters Brothers premiered at the Venice Film Festival and is released on 5 April 2019 in the UK.

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