The Grey Fox

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"In 1901, after 33 years in San Quentin Prison, Bill Miner, "The Gentleman Bandit", was released into the Twentieth Century."
  • PG
  • 1982
  • 1 hr 50 min
  • 7.3  (2,458)

The Grey Fox, directed by Phillip Borsos, is a 1982 Canadian western biopic film that features a unique blend of comedy, drama, and romance. The movie is based on the true story of Bill Miner, a legendary stagecoach robber who was released from prison in his early 60s and decides to change his ways. The movie is set in Washington State in the early 1900s, where Bill (Richard Farnsworth) has just been granted parole after spending three decades in a San Quentin prison. He arrives in Seattle, hoping to pick up where he left off with his criminal career, but the world has moved on, and he soon realizes that he is out of place in this new era of automobiles and modern technology.

Disillusioned and penniless, Bill decides to take a job at a ranch as a cook, where he meets Kate Flynn (Jackie Burroughs), a young widow who runs the ranch with her son. A connection soon springs up between Bill and Kate, and he starts to feel like he might have a chance at a new life.

However, nostalgia and billiard games at the local tavern lead Bill back to his old criminal habits once again. Soon, he teams up with a younger accomplice, the fiery young Shorty (played by Wayne Robson), and they embark on a series of heists and robberies, including the famously-robbed Canadian Pacific Railway.

The story unfolds as a character-driven drama, following Miner's transition from outlaw to folk hero, and documenting his relationships with those around him, from Kate, Shorty, and various other train and stagecoach passengers to the authorities who chase after him.

Richard Farnsworth's understated portrayal of Bill Miner is outstanding, delivering a nuanced and humanized character that subverts the usual depictions of Wild West bandits as one-dimensional villains. Farnsworth's performance conveys the internal struggle of a man seeking to atone for his past actions while also grappling with his nostalgia and the changing world around him.

Jackie Burroughs is also excellent as Kate, providing a strong and grounded anchor amidst the chaos and excitement of Miner's criminal activity. The chemistry between her and Farnsworth is palpable, and their tender moments are some of the film's most touching.

Phillip Borsos's direction is deft and confident, utilizing the unique and beautiful landscapes of British Columbia to create a vivid sense of place and an immersive atmosphere. Borsos also effectively blends humor and drama, never letting the film's darker elements overpower its lighter touches.

The Grey Fox is notable for its attention to historical detail, recreating the period with meticulous accuracy, from costumes to dialogue. This attention to detail extends to the film's use of anamorphic widescreen, which mirrors the format used in movies of that era and provides a nostalgic sense of authenticity.

In conclusion, The Grey Fox is a thoughtful, entertaining and lively movie with an exceptional central performance by Richard Farnsworth as Bill Miner. Borsos's direction is strong, and the cinematography and attention to historical detail elevate the film above most of the western-biopic genre. This movie has charms that suit well its off-beat angle on the popular western genre, making it a unique and memorable addition to the western genre that will stick with viewers for the long haul.

The Grey Fox is a 1982 western with a runtime of 1 hour and 50 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.3.

The Grey Fox
Where to Watch The Grey Fox
The Grey Fox is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Amazon and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent The Grey Fox for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 50 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.3  (2,458)