Gunless has a few slips. It lulls a little, and some jokes fall a bit flat, but I think big Western fans will get a kick out of this one. What's more, as with much of Gross's work to date, the film is very pro-Canada, and makes light of the classic (stereotyped) differences between Canadians and Americans. The story holds up whether you take it seriously or lightly, and it's enjoyable as a result - regardless of how many winks and nods you catch.
"Gunless" is an appealing northern(for lack of a better word) which again proves that Paul Gross belongs on horseback as one of the five current actors who rock a cowboy hat.(4 if Clint Eastwood has retired from acting.) He is matched well with Sienna Guillory and Graham Greene is always a welcome presence. As light as the movie is, it is not as broad as I thought it might be, thankfully not shying away from the darker story aspects, revealing many a hidden truth in general. Specifically, the movie also serves as a gentle allegory on the subject of American foreign policy belligerence(For the record, Bill Hicks also used a western to illustrate the subject).
This is a charming and funny Canadian western comedy that pokes fun of stereotypical Canadian culture. It was even better than I expected and Paul Gross was terrific. Loved it!
"How far are we from a real country?"
The humour of [i]Due South[/i] was largely based on a character who was perfectly adjusted to one world using those skills to good effect in a completely different one while at the same time never seeing how different the two worlds were. Along the way, you get to feeling that it's all the people who have actually lived in Chicago all their lives who are going about things wrong and that they just need to learn more about the Inuit. In this movie, the outsider is from, if not exactly modern-day Chicago, certainly somewhere closer to it than the middle-of-nowhere Canadian town where the story is set. And once again, it's the ways of the more quiet world which are right. However, the outsider is still in many ways smarter than everyone else. This, in many cases, is not difficult. This is often the case in movies like this, though there are always at least a couple of people smarter than you'd think.
The Montana Kid (Paul Gross) has killed eleven men and is on the run from the law. He ends up in a small Canadian town full of the kind of whimsical eccentrics you'd expect from a movie like this. The local blacksmith, Jack (Tyler Mane), takes the Kid's horse off and looks after a stone bruise on its hoof. The Kid takes offense at this and they bicker some, which ends with Jack using the one word which hurts the Kid most--"common." So the Kid calls him out. Only Jack doesn't have a gun. And none of the locals have pistols. Jane Taylor (Sienna Guillory) does, though it's broken, and she offers the Kid the chance to have it for use in the upcoming duel if only the Kid will help her build the windmill she's attaching to the pump on her land. Meanwhile, quiet Canadian life goes on around them. But all is not safe and happy for the Kid, who is being pursued by bounty hunter Ben Cutler (Callum Keith Rennie) and knows it.
As is practically required by Canadian law, the movie features a minor part for Graham Greene as a guide working for the RCMP. He kind of follows around Corporal Jonathan Kent (Dustin Milligan) and makes snarky comments. So, you know, Graham Greene. Similarly, there is an adorable little girl named Adell (Melody B. Choi), who is also aware of the weirder aspects of her hometown. She is the first person the Kid, whose name turns out to be Sean, sees in the town, and she takes no little offense at his assumption that she doesn't speak English. The general store might be seen as a symptom of Canadian culture; the English owner--Carl (Shawn Campbell), possibly?--is in a constant battle with the French one--probably Claude (Paul Coeur). There are three young men who are thrilled at the prospect of a real American gunfighter in their town, and the doctor (Jay Brazeau) says he performs the first gluteal bullet removal free. In short, it's a Canadian movie full of whimsical and likeable Canadian characters.
Which is why you can kind of see how frustrating the Montana Kid (at one point, someone observes that nicknames have a way of hanging around, often for decades) finds the whole thing. After all, we're watching these people for an hour and a half. He's living with them. At that, his three fanboys get pretty irritating to me even within the hour and a half, but of course you then get the vastly amusing reaction from Paul Gross. I kind of wonder if Adell has already made plans to leave town when she gets old enough to make her own decisions. No, I can't say as I'd think life on the lam would be any fun for the Kid. It's clear that he's getting pretty tired of the whole thing. He's been chased by Cutler for ten years, he says--in my head, this is "about since they stopped being partners," of course--and is just done with it. On the other hand, if he doesn't kill Jack, did he really need to kill those eleven men who are the reason Cutler is chasing him in the first place?
And, yes, there's an obvious reason I watched this. I was in an "I don't feel like watching any of this" mood about the stuff I have in my instant queue, so I was looking at what else Netflix had to suggest. And since what it had to suggest was a movie I'd never seen starring Paul Gross, well, there was my movie for the day picked out. This is, for the curious, a Paul Gross much closer to [i]Slings & Arrows[/i] than [i]Due South[/i]. Though he appears to be almost the straight man here, letting hilarity ensue around him without much taking part in it himself. He's a Paul Gross worn down enough by the world so that nothing is all that hilarious anymore. But even he eventually finds something to hope for, something to live for. Jack suggests that a man wearing a gun is a man going in search of death, and Jane--whose husband left her long ago--asks the Kid if that's true or not. But he never really answers the question. This is probably because he doesn't himself want to know the answer.
Gentle humor of practical folk trying to do their best with disparately contentious -yet fundamentally identical- social and moral codes, make this the best western comedy I've seen in decades. (Of course, there were only a dozen or so in the decades).
At least one critic here willing to defend well scripted and performed -albeit low budget- small town aspirations, fears, courage, and minor successes as worthy entertainments to keep near one's family DVD player.
90% score is relative to the rest of it's genre.
It has love, redemption, respect, and many other core family issues, well played. Entertaining lessons for the powerful of our society who have forgotten how important it is to be a good neighbor first, and leader second... How sensational, rewarding, and belly-laugh funny, is tolerated diversity.
JDT: good duster.
However, this is all news to the "Montana Kid" (Paul Gross), who arrives in town with a noose around his neck and a tree branch dragging behind him. He had been hung, luckily on a decaying tree, and survived. His horse, whom he loves very dearly and talks to whenever possible, dragged him all the way to a small town in the Rockies, despite being badly injured. While the Montana Kid, whose real name is Sean, is getting patched up by the doctor, a blacksmith goes about tending to his horse. These heathens didn't even ask, so obviously they're bad people. Sean decides that the blacksmith, Jack (Tyler Mane), needs to be taught a lesson, so he challenges him to a duel.
The problem with that is that nobody in town has a pistol. They have shotguns for the birds, and rifles for hunting, but no pistols. Only a lady named Jane (Sienna Guillory), possesses one, although it's in severe disrepair. She offers to trade it for some manual labor, and soon enough, the town grows on Sean, and he finds himself liking the people. All except Jack, whom he swears will be soon given the fixed pistol so that a duel can take place.
The film works to subvert your expectations, just like it does to the character that Gross plays. When three men, each holding a gun, meet him outside of the local shop, you expect something serious to go down. No, they just think that it's exciting, and they're going to offer him the guns so that the duel can commence. Of course, there's one character who ends every sentence with "eh?," but I figure that's done as a loving gesture to the stereotype, considering he's the only one to do that.
Gunless is a very Canadian production, and while not known for it, there is a certain sense of humor that Canadians have. If you've seen the fantastic show Corner Gas, that's about the most well-known production I can think would be likened to this film. Being Canadian, I found it to be quite funny. There were a few misfires, sure, but what comedy is funny for the entire way through? Gunless flew by like a breeze, its 90 minute running time feeling like it went by in just a few seconds, all because I was constantly laughing.
Where I had to take issue with it is in the way it concludes its main story, Sean vs. Jack. It is, indeed, finished with a single shot, but not in the way that you'd think. You laugh in the moment but then realize how much time was spent building up to it, and that it needed to be something more. At least, that's what I thought at first, but then I figured how Sean had grown as a character by this point, and how the ending to that storyline actually does fit. I suppose the film gives you something to think about, at the very least, even if its main conclusion isn't satisfactory.
There is only one big shootout scene, which comes right near the end and features villains whom we'd previously seen only a couple of times previously. A group of bounty hunters have been chasing Sean since the beginning of the film -- although we don't see them until midway through -- and want him dead or alive. This leads to a great shootout involving the entire town, again, in a way you wouldn't initially expect.
Paul Gross is not an action hero, which makes him almost the perfect man to play a character who likes to think he's a whole lot tougher than he is. He can wave his gun around and be impressive, but this archetypal cowboy rarely has to do any fighting. Instead, he gets to play the straight man, someone who can't believe what's going on all around him. Everyone else is "crazy," even though most of them are just going about their business like normal.
He mumbles his lines way too often, though, which is a problem. It's sometimes difficult to understand what he's saying, even when he's the only one talking. His character does have more depth than is initially anticipated, though, which makes for a pleasant surprise. Sienna Guillory does nothing to make her love interest stand out, while everyone else just kind of fades into the background, save for Callum Keith Rennie who shows up to be the real bad guy -- the leader of the bounty hunters.
Look, Gunless is a funny Canadian Western that will make you laugh if you enjoy the subversion of Western tropes or Canadian humor. It has some very minimalistic approaches to its setting, some solid costumes, and enough humor to make it go by in a breeze, even if it does feel anticlimactic in its main story. It takes the understood rules of the Wild West and flips them on their head. It doesn't have great acting, but it doesn't really need to, either. It sets a modest goal and is successful in achieving it. I quite enjoyed it, and I'll recommend it to you, too.
couple of laugh out loud moments.