John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix join forces as title-characters The Sisters Brothers, guns for hire who are contracted to find a prospector (Riz Ahmed) with a scientific trick for finding gold in rivers.
Reilly plays Eli, the nicer of the two brothers, who is starting to consider life after riding and killing. Phoenix plays Charlie, perfectly content to be a bounty hunter of sorts, as long as the mission includes hookers and lots of booze. Another man (Jake Gyllenhaal) intercepts the prospector with the intent of turning him over to the brothers, but he has a change of heart—and the hunt takes on a new dimension.
Reilly and Phoenix are great together, creating a palpable fraternal bond. This is a dark period Western speckled with some funny moments, but don’t be tricked by the commercials for the film: It’s a mostly dark affair, acted well by all involved.
Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) has made a moving, absorbing, appropriately nasty Western that gives the impression that everybody onscreen smells really bad. Phoenix, having a banner year, turns out to be perfectly cast as a gunslinger, something I wouldn’t have believed going in. He and Reilly give this film a ton of soul, and it doesn’t hurt having the likes of Gyllenhaal and Ahmed in their supporting roles. They are all equally good.
The Sisters Brothers is playing at theaters across the valley.