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The Sisters Brothers

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Jacques Audiard is known as a European director of very physical cinema. RUST AND BONES about the relationship between a brutal street boxer and an amputee, Cannes winner DHEEPAN about former Indonesian soldier getting involved in the gang wars of the French suburbs, and A PROPHET about the rise of a young French-Arab man as the leader of a prison gang were all tough, direct films about bodily self-determination in extreme situations. The fact that Audiard shot a western in the US isn‘t surprising at first, but it is astonishing that THE SISTERS BROTHERS isn‘t about tough guys that assert themselves but rather about men who are trying to shed their toughness.

The Sisters brothers are ruthless killers, bounty hunters, and assassins. Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly) and Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Sisters) massacre numerous citizens of a remote farm while searching for a man. The man in question isn‘t there. “Then we screwed it up,“ is the laconic comment. Next time they will kill better. Their client is the mysterious “Commodore,“ who makes the impulsive Charlie the leader on their next job, even though the Sisters brothers wouldn‘t survive a night without the more cautious and very sensible Eli. Their next job: finding gold prospector and chemist Herman Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed) who allegedly developed an extremely effective method of gold digging, getting the mysterious formula, and then killing him. Journalist John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), also working for the Commodore, is on Warm‘s tail and has the task of assessing him while the brothers take care of the dirty work.

But first we learn more about the dynamic between the brothers. While Charlie drinks and parties with prostitutes, Eli remains sober and longs for his great love. A saloon prostitute is so moved by Eli‘s request of acting out a scene in which his beloved gives him a neckerchief for the trip that she runs out of the room, but also reveals a murder conspiracy to the brothers. Eli protects Charlie, who is like a big kid. At the same time chemist Warm meets poet John Morris, who isn‘t very suited to being a bounty hunter. Warm is so friendly and gentle to Morris that he immediately falls under the prospector‘s charm. And so the story shifts from being about two super tough killers to one of men who discover their gentle, honest, and friendly side and end up building a small utopia in the west in which tough men talk about why they got so tough and how nice it would be do be allowed to be different.

The story of the numerous utopias and socialist communiities in the US of the 19th and early 20th century hasn‘t been told in cinema, and Audiard‘s film doesn‘t go beyond the dream. But at least there are dreams, and a stellar cast that obviously had a lot of fun breaking cliches. THE SISTERS BROTHERS is fun but the typical Audiard touch is missing; the energetic, tense images. It‘s as if Audiard is suddenly feeling very relaxed in Hollywood and is making classic narrative cinema shooting from the hip.

Tom Dorow (INDIEKINO BERLIN)

Translation: Elinor Lewy

Credits

USA/Frankreich/Rumänien/Spanien 2018, 120 min
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Western
Director: Jacques Audiard
Author: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain
DOP: Benoît Debie
Montage: Juliette Welfling
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Distributor: Wild Bunch
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Rutger Hauer, Riz Ahmed, Carol Kane
FSK: 12
Release: 07.03.2019

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