The Sisters Brothers
This movie could have been a great 1 and ½ hour film. Sadly, it ran over 2 hours.
The Sisters Brothers suffers from the same problem that effected last years’ The Florida Project. Both would have made excellent movies if released in a short film posture but ran out of gas the longer they lasted. This was particularly true of The Sisters Brothers which runs over 2 hours.
Regrettably, the movie had several very good things going for it that it unfortunately repeated over and over and over again. John C. Riley and Joaquin Phoenix play two brothers who work as killers in Oregon in the 1850s. You quickly learn that killing comes easy for them, and they are hired by a man known as “The Commodore” (Rutger Hauer) to hunt down a chemist who has developed a formula for finding gold during the California Gold Rush. Their journey is complicated when a detective played by Jake Gyllenhaal is hired by the brothers to help find the chemist and recreate his formula.
The film makes for an enjoyable ride as you watch both Riley and Phoenix constantly deride the other. Riley in particular plays a commanding role, particularly when he is provided with a toothbrush for the first time in his life. The scenes where he sits outside with his paunchy belly exposed trying to master the toothbrush makes the movie worth seeing on that basis alone.
Regrettably, the movie increasingly loses its strength as the brothers team up with Gyllenhaal and the chemist to try to use the formula when they reach the rivers and streams around San Francisco. A terrible fate awaits all of them and in the process the film loses its ability to sustain your interest.
I saw the movie with my niece, a skilled photographer, and she liked it much better than I did. In that regard, Riz Ahmad does a fine job playing the chemist known as Hermann Kermit Warm, particularly when he tries to convince his companions to travel to Dallas, Texas, where they could try to start a new community where kindness and understanding would prevail. You could only feel sorry for Mr. Warm as he finds that dreams are made to be broken.
Let me finish by again noting that I really enjoyed the interaction of Riley and Phoenix as two brothers with different goals in life. Riley carries a small blanket given to him by an unidentified lost love that he still cherishes while Phoenix has little other interest in life other than to drink himself to death. They prove to be loveable killers with a conscience but that fails to save the film.