The Sisters Brothers 2017 ****

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Even given the lack of public appetite for Westerns, the complete disappearance of Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers at the box-office demonstrated a notable and regrettable gap between quality and appreciation; this is an entertaining, mainstream film that almost nobody saw. Audiard’s A Prophet was such a breakthrough movie that his English –language debut was certain to draw top talent; based on a novel by Patrick deWitt, Joaquin Phoenix and John C Reilly play Charlie and Eli Sisters, two assassins on the trail of gold in the U.S. circa 1851. Rogue One’s Riz Ahmed plays Warm, a man who has created a formula which, added to bodies of water with gold ore nearby, turns bright green; a licence to print money if carefully applied, but care is short in these territories. There’s a notable taste of Old West harshness when Charlie swallows a spider and the venom causes him some distress; the world is a dangerous place in Audiard’s world view, and survival is as much as a man might hope to gain. The Sisters Brothers is violent, bleakly funny, spikey and evokes the best of Sergio Leone; Jake Gyllenhaal, Rutger Hauer, Alison Tolman and Carol Kane round out an accomplished cast. Perhaps The Sisters Brothers was too rich for audiences; an audience watching at home would do well to put their phones away and immerse themselves in this epic, original story of greed and grizzly bears.

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Black Sea 2014 ***

black-sea-3After enduring an age of pretty-boy vehicles (Alfie), Jude Law has gained in intensity what he’s lost in looks. Law plays Robinson, a submarine expert in Kevin Macdonald’s serviceable action film, pulling together a mercenary crew in a search of hidden gold on an abandoned Nazi submarine. Something in the vein of Alistair MacLean’s Ice Station Zebra, right down to Scott McNairy in the Patrick McGoohan role of US interloper, Macdonald maintains a decent tension through a few tricky hairpins, which Michael Friend typically oily in support. Law’s accent is flawless, and if the action doesn’t have a big-budget for spectacle, the close-quarters action makes for a grown-up slice of derring-do.