The Grey Fox manages to be both old-fashioned and fresh, a loving ode to the plethora of masterpieces that influenced it (I love the scene of Bill watching The Great Train Robbery in the theater), and a very subtle critique of their limitations. A case can be made that it’s the Last Great Old Western before Lawrence Kasdan’s flamboyant Silverado and Clint Eastwood’s dead-serious Unforgiven propelled the genre towards the 21st Century.
Borsos, along with writer John Hunter, and the impeccable lead, make us root for the antihero, a man unable to stop committing crimes. This pathological inability stems from a refusal to adapt, a determination to cling to the past, though that gradually softens. Farnsworth is magnificent, reticent, and resolute, wearing a semblance of a grin underneath the second-best-mustache-in-the-business (the honors still belong to Sam Elliot). “You come at me again, I’ll put a window through your head, so help me,” Bill tells a fiend, his voice barely registering above a hushed drawl. I’ll be damned if Quentin Tarantino didn’t study this film, and Farnsworth’s performance, before making Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight.
“…one of the best Canadian films ever.”
The 4K restoration highlights Frank Tidy’s stunning cinematography. The Grey Fox is visually splendid, from its close-ups of its hero’s despondent eyes to the sweeping shots of sun-roasted prairies; from Bill coming home through the fog to a train snaking its way through the countryside and a boat drifting off into a lilac sunset.
If I have a gripe with The Grey Fox, it’s the rushed finale, which resorts to title cards to fast-forward through some of this true story’s most compelling bits. It feels purposeful, though, as if that weren’t the focal point Hunter was trying to make. His film is a soliloquy, a swan song to the movie of our past and a glimpse at the future. “Men my age, future don’t mean too much, unless you’re thinking about next week,” Bill states. They sure don’t make ’em like this anymore. One of the best Canadian westerns? There’s not much else to say aboot it.
"…the 4K restoration highlights Frank Tidy's stunning cinematography."