Rutger Hauer

The Sisters Brothers

15/04/19

The western movie has ridden some twisted trails over the years, but few of them are quite as strange as the one followed by The Sisters Brothers. The first feature in English by French director Jacques Audiard, it’s based on the acclaimed novel by Patrick De Witt. It’s a good deal more philosophical than your average oater and it takes it owns sweet time to relate a decidedly bizarre tale.

The titular brothers are hired guns, working for the mysterious Commodore (a thankless non-speaking role for Rutger Hauer). Eli (John C Reilly) is the shy, sensitive one, who’s clearly not cut out for this kind of work, but is nonetheless deadly with a revolver, whenever push comes to shove. He tends to play second fiddle to the more nihilistic Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix), a habitual drunkard, who somehow manages to turn everything he touches into absolute chaos.

For their latest mission, the brothers are despatched to rendezvous with another hired gun, John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), in order to apprehend the charismatic Herman Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), a man with a spectacular (and, it would seem, almost magical) secret. But when Morris bumps into Warm, he soon falls under the man’s peculiar spell and the two of them quickly become business partners – a move which makes the brothers’ latest mission even more complicated than they expected.

This is a weirdly metaphorical film, where strange images loom out of mythic landscapes – a film where blazing horses career through the night and chunks of gold shimmer invitingly at the bottom of a creek – where opportunities pop up unexpectedly from the sagebrush only to metamorphose into death traps. As the brothers bicker and quarrel their way across the screen, we begin to learn that they are pioneers of their own misfortune, doomed to keep running from the seemingly endless adversaries that are pitched against them – and, even when they too find themselves partnering with their former target, it is only to unleash more dangers.

The Sisters Brothers certainly won’t be for everyone – and, with a running time of just over two hours, it will try the patience of those who want something more straightforward. But once settled into its peculiar rhythm, I find myself beguiled and occasionally startled by it. This is a Western the like of which I’ve never seen before and, trust me, I’ve seen many. I enjoy the ride.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut

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09/04/15

Thirty three years ago, as a raw recruit with Piccadilly Radio, I was sent to review Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The film was far from perfect (a Chandleresque voiceover by Harrison Ford, one of the chief offenders) but nevertheless, it blew me away. I couldn’t remember seeing a more credible vision of the future. Since then, Scott has revisited the film several times, trimming it, tuning it, reworking certain scenes with new technology as it became available. This version, originally released in 1992, now receives another showing on the big screen and if ever there was a film that deserved to be viewed that way, this is the one. Scott’s dystopic vision of Los Angeles in 2019 is a twelve course feast for the senses – a world dominated by acid rain, Japanese technology and endless adverts for Coca Cola. The visual effects are quite extraordinary (all the more so when you consider that this was before the days of CGI), but they don’t dominate proceedings, while Vangelis’s pulsing electronic score makes a perfect marriage with the onscreen action.

Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a Blade Runner, a man charged with the tricky task of hunting down and eliminating rogue Replicants (incredibly realistic androids, generally used as workers on off-world colonies.) Four particularly resourceful Replicants led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) are hiding out in Los Angeles and Deckard is recruited by his old boss to hunt them down. Visiting the Tyrell Corporation, who manufacture the replicants, he meets Rachael (Sean Young) an intelligent young woman who it seems, might not be quite as human as she appears…

In futuristic movies, it’s always fascinating to see how many unlikely predictions are made. In 2019, apparently, Deckard is still reading old fashioned newspapers and loading printed snapshots into what looks like a CD deck (though he can admittedly do amazing things once they’re in there). Meanwhile, people are zooming around in flying cars! But this matters not. The film goes deeper than most sci fi stories to ask some challenging questions. Does artificial life have as much right to exist as the creatures that have created it? And do those creators have the right to take that life away, when the creation fails to meet their expectations? The final sequences in J.S. Sebastian’s toy shop/apartment in ‘The Bradbury Building’ build to a compelling conclusion and Hauer has never been as enigmatic as he is here.  Blade Runner is serious film-making on a grandiose scale. Scott has made many films since, but this will probably remain his undisputed masterpiece. It’s stood the test of time and passed with flying colours.

5 stars

Philip Caveney