“The Sisters Brothers” is a modern take on a classic genre

Courtesy of IMDb

John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix play two brothers and hired guns in 

Jacques Audiard's 2018 Western, "The Sisters Brothers."

In the early days of Hollywood, no type of film captured the imagination of audiences like the Western. The first American-made Western hit the silver screen all the way back in 1903 — the silent movie era — and they became a minor staple before the genre gained significant traction in the 1930s. 

From then until the end of the 1960s, nothing else could match the draw of the cowboy movie as Hollywood released countless Westerns. Occasionally, this would result in a film as iconic as “A Fistful of Dollars” or “Shane,” but more often than not, the purpose of the film was disposable entertainment. Then suddenly, the genre as a whole seemed to ride off into the sunset as it was supplanted primarily by the action film. Perhaps the best signifier of the end of the era, even outlaw hero Clint Eastwood was suddenly “Dirty” Harry Callahan, a San Francisco cop on the edge. With the toppling of the Western as a Hollywood powerhouse, studios became much more selective about releasing movies in the now-dormant genre, resulting in a shift from quantity to quality that has given rise to a number of under-the-radar modern classics, such as the 2018 release by French director Jacques Audiard, “The Sisters Brothers.”

“The Sisters Brothers,” based on the novel by Patrick deWitt, is the story of two brothers working as hired guns in the Old West for a wealthy businessman known  only as The Commodore, played by Rutger Hauer in one of his final roles. Older brother Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) is short-tempered and violent with no remorse and a penchant for getting drunk while his younger brother Eli (John C. Reilly) is more the sentimental type and would love nothing more than to sever ties with The Commodore and settle into a simpler life free from killing. The Commodore tasks the pair to travel from Oregon to California to kill Hermann Kermit Warm, a gold prospector who stole from him. Warm is played by Riz Ahmed, who audiences may recognize as the antagonist of “Venom,” released the same year. Rounding out the cast is Jake Gyllenhaal as John Morris, a private detective hired by The Commodore to keep an eye on Warm until the brothers can arrive to exact justice. 


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