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Overall Rating
3.25

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 25%
Average75%
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1 review, 2 user ratings


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Grey Fox, The
 
by Rob Gonsalves

"The return of the fox."
3 stars

For whatever reason, Kino Lorber has plucked the 38-year-old Canadian adventure-drama 'The Grey Fox' out of obscurity, treated it to a 4k spit-shine, and given it back to us.

The Grey Fox got respectful reviews in America when it arrived in 1983 but, it appears, was quickly forgotten here. Not so in Canada, where it’s regarded as a national treasure. Its director, Phillip Borsos, was only 27 when he made it; he only got to make four more features, including the bewildering One Magic Christmas, before leukemia took him in 1995 at only 41. I can imagine Richard Farnsworth shaking his head sadly at the notion of outliving his young director.

Farnsworth inhabits Bill Miner, a stagecoach robber who’s just finished a 33-year stretch in prison. When he gets out, it’s a different century — 1901 — and we learn very early on that we can trust the movie not to be cheesy, because it never makes much of Miner being a man out of his own time. Like the cowboys in The Wild Bunch who remember the Civil War but find themselves negotiating a pre-WWI world of cars and machine guns, Miner squints uneasily at technology but doesn’t let it faze him. Farnsworth, whose swan song was a beautiful performance in David Lynch’s becalmed masterpiece The Straight Story, had a high, light voice that nonetheless carried the weight of authority. Listening to Miner, we feel that this was a man who didn’t need to act hard. There’s a quiet but steely conviction in everything he says, and Farnsworth moves like a man who trusts his own body (this former stuntman was still plenty spry in his early sixties when he made this movie, riding a gorgeous black horse perilously close to a moving train).

Miner tries several times to get a real job and mend his ways. In fact, there’s very subtle comedy in the fact that he has it relatively easy when he gets out of jail. Not once but twice, women who care about him — his sister and then a suffragette named Kate Flynn (Jackie Burroughs) — offer him a safe haven. And there’s also subtle comedy in the fact that Miner just can’t accept their help. He can’t abide the workaday life — “I’m just no good at work that’s planned by other heads,” he says. He robbed stagecoaches, and now, after having seen the early picture The Great Train Robbery, he’s going to rob trains. That’s what he does and who he is. Nothing personal, mind you. Miner’s ethos meant neither he nor any of his men shot their guns directly at anyone. No killing. There’s a little of Miner in Seth Gecko in the Quentin Tarantino-written From Dusk Till Dawn, who insisted “I am a professional fucking thief. I don’t kill people that I don’t have to.” Miner also boasts a bit of the amiable outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and a bit of Henri “Papillon” Charriere — Miner has a habit of escaping from prison.

The Grey Fox is pictorially as satisfying as a full-course dinner, photographed in rich blues and browns by Frank Tidy. It’s a little loose and sedate, though, and our attention starts to slacken — the structure becomes anecdotal — until Miner and his two accomplices are camping out in Canada and a Mountie approaches. This is a whistle-clean, PG-rated, old-fashioned semi-Western with shootings but no bloodshed. From time to time it feels a little edgeless; the filmmaking is “respectable” almost to a fault. But then the grainy solidity of an image (Borsos and Tidy make the most of British Columbia locations) catches and holds us, or Richard Farnsworth says something, it doesn’t matter what, and we can’t imagine he could be anything less than honest.

A good deal of 'The Grey Fox' is A Great Man In Front Of A Great Sky, and that’s just about enough.

link directly to this review at http://ctfqcd.com/review.php?movie=8715&reviewer=416
originally posted: 06/09/20 05:23:46
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User Comments

2/11/04 Jack Sommersby Wonderfully atmospheric, entertaining, and remarkably acted by Farnsworth. 4 stars
2/10/04 R.W. Welch Farnsworth is perfect in this authentic account of aging train robber. Nicely done. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Mar-1983 (PG)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  18-May-1983



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