Tag Archives: John C. Reilly

The Sisters Brothers (2018) Movie Review By Justin Aylward

The Sisters Brothers Review, In 1850s Oregon, the infamous duo of assassins, Eli and Charlie Sisters, chase a gold prospector and his unexpected ally.

Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Jacques Audiard (screenplay by), Thomas Bidegain (screenplay by)
Stars: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal

The western genre is largely a relic of a bygone era, but when we do see a new incarnation on our cinema screens there is much to admire. Recent films such as The Assassination of Jesse James…, 3:10 To Yuma, Bone Tomahawk, and Hell or High Water have shown how the dusty landscapes and fatalist attitudes of the Wild West are still ingredients for exceptional films.

The new film by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone) stars Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly as Charlie and Eli Sisters, a ragtag gun-toting duo in 1850s Oregon. The pair, who are as much chalk and cheese as drunk and sober, are recruited by The Commodore, (Rutger Hauer) a brutish, wealthy landowner, to pursue and kill a gentle prospector named Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed). Warm has allegedly stolen a special formula for uncovering gold and is set on keeping the riches for himself. Although Eli is unmoved by The Commodore’s sorry tale, Charlie is willing to take on the job, and the two bickering brothers set out on the trail.
Also on the trail of Hermann is a measured and erudite assassin called John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal). Morris gets a head start over the Sisters Brothers, and keeps a diary along the way, leaving letters at each stop-off point to inform Charlie and Eli of his progress.

French director Audiard, has shown again how sometimes it is with a foreign eye that old American mores are best dissected. From Douglas Sirk with All That Heaven Allows in the 50s and Wim Wenders with his film Paris, Texas in the 80s, European directors have used their outsider prospective to parse out the diverse ways of living in America.

In The Sisters Brothers, four disparate people in conflicting pursuits – the hunter and the hunted, the gold seeker and the taskmaster – are thrown together in a tornado of incompatible desires. Despite the obvious route he takes, Charlie is emotionally adrift. He drinks to get drunk where he then empties bars and picks fights. He sleeps with as many women as he can pay for, and abuses his brother at every turn. Eli, on the other hand, knows exactly what he wants but the ties that bind him to his errant brother grow tighter around him. Charlie relishes the danger in the job, but Eli has had enough and wants to put away his gun and return home to their estranged mother.

John Morris, the dogged assassin, is locked down by his obligations. Despite all his thoughtfulness for the surroundings, he has never asked himself what he is really doing. The working life seems to be the only one he thinks exists. When he finally catches up with Hermann – who basically presents himself to Morris – he finds a young man who is thoughtful, idealistic, and bright. Hermann wants to set up a community in Texas, free from the toxicity of the broader American society. When Morris realises that Hermann is not the craven individual he was told about, he decides to accompany Hermann to San Francisco in search of gold.
Within the unfolding story are many well-crafted, cinematic elements. The cinematography by Benoit Debie captures the celestial skylines and mountainous peaks of the West Coast. Some of the scenes following Eli and Charlie on horseback as they ride through fields of hay and tall grass are exceptionally eye-catching. Audiard directs with a special confidence a foreign director in an alien genre has no right to have, but his command over the material is obvious in the multitoned moods of the film. Also, John C. Reilly stands out as a gifted and thoughtful character actor who can perform through many layers of complexity. Look at the scene where he solicits with a prostitute, although not for sex, but just to play out a harmless but heartfelt fantasy; a husband saying goodbye to a grief-stricken wife. Joaquin Phoenix proves yet again that he is perhaps the best American actor of his generation, or at least the bravest and most unpredictable. He has the great ability of the famous method actors; you never know what he will do next, but it promises to be emotional.

Throughout, the Sisters’ Brothers journey to San Francisco is fraught with turmoil and the travails of the dangerous territory. Between night-scrawling spiders, duplicitous bordello owners, and dying horses, they can’t catch a good break. Charlie is just about ready to puke his guts up once and for all, while Eli seems to be on the verge of a hopelessness he may never outlast. Eventually they cross paths with Morris and Hermann Warm, and the ties of the plot come undone in scenes that are equally tense and sad.

I will not spoil the final act of the film. But I will say that the Homerian journey ends with all the appropriate beats that the film has been orchestrating throughout its running time. In the end we have a Western as charming as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as melancholy as Unforgiven, and as unforgettable as The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The Sisters Brothers is the best film of its type in many years and shows much promise for the director Audiard. Let’s hope he continues to make films away from home where it’s dusty, dangerous and the gun blasts ring long into the night.

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Stan & Ollie (2019) Movie Review By Philip Henry

Stan & Ollie Review,

Director: Jon S. Baird
Writer: Jeff Pope
Stars: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson & Nina Arianda

I’m from the generation that grew up watching Laurel & Hardy reruns on TV. The classic shorts were shown on Saturday mornings and in the evenings on BBC2 at 6pm as an alternative to the news. Even at a very early age I saw the genius in this duo when most of my friends wouldn’t stoop to watch something that was made in black and white. I started off loving the slapstick antics, but Laurel & Hardy were one of the few acts to transition from silent movies to talkies without missing a beat, and later on I came to love the dialogue too. A favourite line that I still remember from back then is from one of the shorts where they both have nagging wives and Stanley says: “She talks to you like water off a duck’s back.” That, to me, is genius.

So it was with some trepidation that I went to see a movie where these immortal personalities would be recreated. I had seen this tried many times before and the results were always disappointing. Ronnie Barker was a huge L&H fan and there can be no doubting his comedy chops, but when he recreated a classic skit with him as Ollie and Roy Castle as Stan, it fell flat with me.

But anyone who has watched Steve Coogan in The Trip will see his meticulous attention to detail when doing a voice or impression, and he nails Stan Laurel to a tee. Not just the voice and mannerisms, but the physical look as well. It’s either a hell of a make-up job or he lost a lot of weight because he looks nothing like his most famous creation, Alan Partridge. John C. Reilly doesn’t let the side down either, with a perfect representation of Oliver ‘Babe’ Hardy. He was coming off the abysmally reviewed Holmes and Watson, released just a few weeks earlier, but what credibility he lost on that movie he more than regains here. It just proves that an actor is only as good as the material he’s got to work with.

The film begins with Stan and Ollie on the set of Way Out West. The duo are not happy that producer Hal Roach is taking the lion’s share of profits from their films when their peers like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton have much better deals in place. Stan wants to walk out on Roach and try to set themselves up with their own studio, but Ollie, an inveterate gambler on his third divorce and who has just got engaged again, likes the stability of a regular income, no matter how lousy the money is.

The film then cuts to sixteen years later when the duo have lost their star power and are struggling to get a film made. But there is a ray of light. A British producer is trying to find finance for a Robin Hood picture starring Laurel & Hardy, so the duo agree to do a small stage tour of the UK to prove to him that the audiences are still there and that they’ve still got it. There’s smouldering resentment between them over the Roach incident. Stan did walk out on Roach, but Ollie was still under contract and continued to make movies for the tyrant producer, which Stan sees as a betrayal.

In many ways it’s the classic story of the aging boxer who thinks he has one more fight left in him. The duo know their routines inside out, and Coogan and Reilly recreate these better than I have ever seen anyone do them, but the years of physical comedy, his weight issues and his heavy drinking, have left Ollie with bad knees and a dodgy heart. So it’s a case of the spirit being willing, but the body just not being able anymore.

Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda play Ollie and Stan’s wives; two women who really don’t like each other and don’t get along, but are forced to spend a lot of time together because of the bond between their husbands. Their arrival at the Savoy in London is a marvellous piece of ‘business’ as the duo perform a little routine for the cameras in search of any publicity they can get.

The film is best described as bittersweet. The comedy sketches are a joy for any fan to watch, and the banter between the pair when they’re ‘on’ is fantastic. The counterpoint to all this is the resentment going on behind the scenes. They were two very different people; with Stan the workaholic always wanting to rehearse or work on their next script, while Ollie just wants to eat, drink (gamble) and be merry, and sees their collaboration as a job like any other that he wants to clock in and out of when it’s done.

It’s a terrific tale of two of Hollywood’s biggest stars as their fame slips away and their best efforts to hold on to it for as long as possible. The ending may be inevitable, but the journey is filled with laughs and moments of real heart.