Rating (2.5 out of 5)
This is a movie with a number of good scenes, but its pace and lack of focus make for a slow meander through the west.
Plot: The Sister Brothers, Eli (John C. Reiley) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) must travel to meet detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has tracked down Herman Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed). The brothers are to extract a special formula for finding gold from Herman and then eliminate him.
What I Liked: There a couple of shoot out scenes that were good, and enjoyable. These were part of the movie that kept everything moving. In particular, I liked the build up in Mayfield. Ms. Mayfield, the owner of the bar, was going to kill the boys but they have a shoot out, and then a heart to heart conversation with Ms. Mayfield.
Eli is sleeping and a spider crawls in his mouth, which poisons him. His brother has to help him through his illness. There is also a night where a bear comes across their camp. The last part that isn’t shown often was the difference between the wild west and San Francisco. They get a hotel in San Francisco, where there are bathtubs and toilets in the rooms. There were components of seeing the west in that timeframe the really came through in the movie.
What I Didn’t Like: The pace was slow and not constant. We would have a shoot out, and then have to traverse the country. I get that this was how the west was, but it made this movie seem much longer than it was. This was very evident as they approach San Francisco, and they take their horses over a dune, and see the ocean. Beautiful scenery, but unnecessary and slowed down the movie.
The brothers are the strong arm of the Commodore, and many times Charlie cites how good they are at they jobs. To me there was a disconnect between this persona and how they talked. The words they used, they tone, etc. As an example, in the early part of the movie they have a discussion about the semantics of the word “victimized”. There are a lot of dialog scenes where tone and language seemed out of sorts with the characters.
We had two stories moving along together. John chasing down Herman, and the brothers trying to meet them. Had we ignored the parallel, and focused on the chase I think there would have been a better pace to the film. We could have focused on the difference between Eli and Charlie, which then we could have understood Eli’s motivation deeper than we did.
The musical score was really good, but didn’t fit the movie I was watching. Had this been a 1960’s heist film, it would have been a perfect match.
The gold project goes very south, and then they must return home. The series of events from that point forward leading to the final ending scene, felt rushed compared to our long journey to being the movie, and the final few parts were anti-climatic.
Conclusion: Great scenes, odd music choices, too much scenery, anti-climatic ending all make for a very mixed movie.