The Sisters Brothers are murderous siblings for hire named Sisters. It is also what is left from the comedy classic Step Brothers when you replace Will Ferrell with Joaquin Phoenix but keep John C. Reilly: a black comic Western with smartly observed sibling relationship moments, absurdist beats, a languorous pace, pitch black or fuzzily staged shoot outs, and a plot that refuses linearity. If this sounds like a picture directed by a French auteur (Jacques Audiard of Rust and Bone and A Prophet fame), shot in Romania and Spain, with a sub cast of American actors adopting pretentious BBC accents, you would be right.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed, playing a detective and a chemist, provide the hoity-toity brogues and give The Sisters Brothers a non-murderous intent to team up. You see, there is gold in them hills, uh rivers, and these two know how to divine it easily.
Gyllenhaal and Ahmed are the straight-men for all the Reilly and Phoenix antics. They add layers of talky philosophy, utopia seeking home yearnings, motivations and partial redemptions to the picaresque wandering and murdering.
With the gang together the movie wanders into amiable chat and a ton of metaphoric inaction, focusing on rumination over ruination to the film’s detriment. The Reilly and Phoenix repartee and relationship shines and reverberates becoming the movie’s saving grace.
The Sisters Brothers is more of an anti-family wandering the high plains than it is a Western.