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TIFF Review: The Sisters Brothers

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Sibling assassins are hired to execute a prospector during the height of the Gold Rush in 1851.

With brutal efficiency, two brothers kill on the behalf of their employer who insists that an advance man be used for the next assignment which involves torturing a chemist to obtain his secret formula for extracting gold from rivers.  The siblings are opposite personalities with Eli (John C. Reilly) being the more thoughtful adult while Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) is a volatile childish drunk.  Matters get complicated when the intended target though not skillful in the art of shooting has a disarming charm.

Surreal imagery and sudden reversals make for an interesting mix that involves silhouetted flaming horses, tarantulas climbing into open mouths, and a master plan that is completely upended.  The dynamic between John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix plays like a Ying and Yang relationship with the two actors playing off of each other.  There is bickering but a strange sense of loyalty which makes for believable interaction between the brothers.  Not quite as successful are the intellectual killer and advance man played by Jake Gyllenhaal and the hunted prospector portrayed by Riz Ahmed who are perhaps a little too understated in their performances.

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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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