ALLIANCE FRANCAIS FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL 2019 REVIEWS

ALL FILMS REVIEWED BY GREG KING

UPDATED MARCH 11, 2019

THE SISTERS BROTHERS.

John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix in Les Frères Sisters (2018)

A revisionist slice of dark western noir, The Sisters Brothers (aka Les Freres Sisters) this is the first English language film from French director Jacques Audiard (best known for the tough A Prophet, etc). The film is set in the American Midwest during the gold rush of the 1850, and exploits many of the familiar tropes of the genre that was immensely popular in the 50s and 60s. Audiard is obviously a fan of the genre and embraces the tropes of the genre, although giving the shootouts a more contemporary flavour. The film stars John C Reilly and Jaoquin Phoenix as the eponymous brothers, Eli and Charlie Sisters, an infamous duo of assassins who are hired by the enigmatic Commodore (Rutger Hauer, in an almost silent cameo). They are sent on a mission to kill a chemist named Hermann Warm (played by Riz Ahmed) who has developed a formula that makes gold nuggets glow in the water at night. But another assassin, John Morris (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), is also on the trail, and he does his own deal to protect Warm. Based on the 2011 novel by Patrick DeWitt, the film has been written by Audiard and his regular collaborator, actor/writer Thomas Bidegain (A Prophet, Rust And Bone, etc). Despite being set in the American frontier, the film was shot on locations in France, Spain and Romania, where the landscapes resemble the wild open plains of the American west. The film looks great thanks to the widescreen cinematography of Benoit Debie, a frequent collaborator with Gaspar Noe, who gives it a suitably epic scope. There are plenty of shootouts, but Audiard’s pacing is a bit too leisurely and the pacing a little uneven though for hardcore western fans. Michel Bathelemy’s production design and Milena Canonero’s costumes all lend to the authenticity of the period detail. The Sisters Brothers marks the second collaboration between Audiard and Reilly, who appeared in the director’s 2015 contemporary French western Les Cowboys. Reilly and Phoenix develop a quirky chemistry as the bickering brothers that provides a nice line in humour. Carol Kane appears briefly as their mother.

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