Westerns come in all shapes and sizes. But traditionally, the heroes of that particular genre ride into town wearing white, while they stave off a threat that's dressed head to toe in black. Over the years, the conventions of the Western genre have been twisted and tweaked by talented filmmakers, but few have been manipulated quite the same way that Jacques Audiard does for The Sisters Brothers. Take, for example, the siblings of the title. They are hired killers, men trained to hunt down prey for their despicable boss, The Commodore (Rutger Hauer). And yet, Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) are borderline likable, and you even end up rooting for them as the movie jogs along. We asked John C. Reilly about that, and he opened up by saying:
I think you come away from this story, even though we play murderers for hire in the movie -- we're assassins. That said, the beginning of their story, it's almost like these child soldiers in Africa, these kids who are pressed into this intense life, before they've even developed empathy or before they've even grown fully as human beings. So you end up feeling -- I did, anyway -- by the end of the film, like, you have sympathy for these guys. Because, in a way, they didn't choose this life. ... By the end, you want them to be free of this life.
In The Sisters Brothers, which is preparing to open in more theaters after a limited release in select markets, John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix play squabbling siblings who work together as a murderous team, even though Phoenix's character likes their jobs as bounty hunters way more than Reilly's character does. Their latest assignment is to hunt a man (played by Riz Ahmed) who has invented an unusual chemical substance that can aid in the gold-mining expeditions of the Old West. Only, travel in that day is slow, and the Sisters brothers run into conflict every stop of the way. Plus, Ahmed has met with Jake Gyllenhaal, and they have plans of their own.
Here's John C. Reilly, talking about the reputation of the siblings in The Sisters Brothers, and why he finds them sympathetic:
The Sisters Brothers is an unexpected journey through some soulful storytelling, digging far below the surface of four interesting men who come across as out of touch with their own time. Photographed beautifully by cinematographer Benoit Debie (Enter the Void), it's both an homage to classic Westerns, and a reinvention of this type of storytelling.
The Sisters Brothers should be playing in a theater near you as we speak.