Two bounty hunters and killers for hire, brothers Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli Sisters (John C Reilly), make their way across 1800s Oregon for a mysterious employer called The Commodore (Rutger Hauer), when they get a new job; finding and bringing in an inventor who’s travelling a few days ahead of them.
Also, on the trail of the quarry is a gentleman tracker John Morris (Jake Gyllenhall, sporting a very weird accent) reporting back to the Sisters, but when he finds and starts to groom his prey, Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed), he instead teams up with the rogue chemist to help him exploit his exciting new gold-prospecting technique.
It takes seemingly forever to get to that point, establishing character through everyone’s interaction with each other and frankly sketching more than one person you wouldn’t want to spend any time with or see succeed in their quest. When The Sisters brothers catch up to Warm and Morris the latter manage to outwit and capture the pair. The Commodore’s men soon descend, and it’s only by Morris and Warm freeing the killers and teaming up with them that everyone can all get out alive.
That description covers about 80 percent of the running time. There’s a lot more in there about how to shoot-from-the-hip, hard living Charlie and his softer-natured older brother rub each other the wrong way and question their life choices, and you’re not sure which element is more important to director and co-writer Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone), but one thing’s for sure – the plot is as boring, pointless and drab as the existential quest.
There’s some good design and very good photography – the opening sequence of a shootout on a pitch-black night across a prairie promises great things. But none of it goes anywhere, the story rambling as much as the characters do, and in the end it’s hard to ignore the fact that you’re asked to sympathise with two cold-blooded murderers, one of whom is so stupid and impulsive he causes several deaths and blows their big chance to get out of the life they’ve led. Dull, colourless and a waste of all the talent involved.
Let us know what you thought of The Sisters Brothers in the comments below.