Published on February 4th, 2019 | by Dan Nicholls


Blu Ray Review – The Sisters Brothers

Based on the Patrick DeWitt novel, The Sisters Brothers is an old west tale.  We take a look at its brand new blu ray release.


It’s the 1850s and Oregon is the wild, wild Pacific Northwest. Infamous outlaw assassin duo the Sisters Brothers – named as such because they’re brothers and their surname is Sisters – are the guns that can’t be outrunned in the bounty hunting game. The Sisters Brothers starts with the brothers’ relationship strenuous and volatile, jumping from job to job and whorehouse to rum parlor with only regret and targets carried on their backs.

Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) both suffer from the pains of past trauma and deal with it in wildly different ways that routinely pull them into – and get them out of – one sticky situation after another. Their latest job takes them on a twisted trail that ends in the most unexpected of places for either of them.

The biggest delight comes in seeing Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed share the screen again, because Nightcrawler is a masterpiece. Whatever accent Gyllenhaal is trying here just sounds hilarious but he commits. His scout John Morris starts out working for the Brothers on the whereabouts of Ahmed’s gold prospector character, Hermann, who supposedly has a secret formula that would revolutionize the hunt for nuggets like never before. The Sis Bros are out to assassinate Hermann but allegiances are slippery in the dusty old west.

Director Jacques Audiard has an eye for picturesque scenery and authenticity in production design. His style here comes off as too languid and at times grotesque to put most viewers at ease with the storytelling. It’s not a particularly enjoyable watch despite its many technical achievements.

It’s not unusual to be wowed by performances from John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix but it is odd to be underwhelmed by them. As Eli and Charlie, respectively, neither actor notches a new high-water mark on their career board. They’re perfectly fine and professional but not outstanding. We’re obviously meant to connect with them more than we do, but I was left feeling indifferent towards their ultimate fates.

One gruesome and horrifying sequence in particular jolts the picture awake but the remainder of its runtime is spent talking lots without saying anything. It’s a movie that’s all dressed up but sacrifices engaging content for outstanding production values. The costumes, set design, and natural photography are all grand. The pacing, plotting, and characters just don’t invite you in.

Perhaps fans of the acclaimed source novel by Patrick DeWitt will find more nuance while sifting through the dirt than the uninitiated. The film’s poor reception at the box office may indicate that a more niche audience is out there for it. The Sisters Brothers is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital in a beautiful audio and visual transfer. Fans will find a lot to appreciate in the physical release’s four behind-the-scenes featurettes that elevate appreciation for the art even if your reaction to the movie itself isn’t warmed.

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is a Vancouver-based, lifelong movie geek who's been a projectionist, critic, director, (accidental) actor, and writer in the industry since E.T. phoned home. @dannicholls

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