Reading the description for Gunless (a Canadian western from 2010) I expected a silly, somewhat low budget parody of the western genre that might make me laugh, but would turn out to really just be one big “look at how funny all these western tropes are” joke in the end. I was wrong. Gunless is a comedy, and it is occasionally quite silly, but just underneath the jokes and the humor I found the movie to actually be a compelling and enjoyable (if somewhat predictable) western brought wonderfully to life by a cast that all do a great job of portraying their particular archetype.
The story centers around an outlaw consistently on the run from a gang of unsavory bounty hunters, The Montana Kid, who after escaping his own hanging with a bullet in his ass, accidentally crossed the border and finds himself in a tiny Canadian town. A few comedic encounters with the townsfolk later, and The Montana Kid (aka Shawn) winds up challenging the town blacksmith to a duel. I could go on, but I found the resulting story, and its conclusion, so entertaining that I don’t want to spoil it here.
Everything about Paul Gross‘s performance seems to simultaneously make fun of, and pay homage to, the gritty, lone wolf, gun slinging protagonists American westerns are so fond of, making a character that, on paper, is little more than a shallow bundle of tired old cliches feel like a real and relatable (and frequently amusing) person.
The rest of the cast were quite good as well, with Sienna Guillory doing a fine job playing Jane Taylor, Gunless’s version of the widow/divorcee/hooker with a heart of gold/love interest with a somewhat tragic past role, Tyler Mane as the gigantic but kindhearted blacksmith, Jack, Dustin Milligan as a young and awkward Mountie, and the list goes on.
Near the end of Gunless I found myself thinking about the recent Cohen brothers film, True Grit, and comparing the two movies in my head; not because of any real similarities between the characters or plots, but because they are tonal opposites. See, True Grit is very much a serious western, and while it does contain some humor, it’s neither the focus nor the draw of the movie. Gunless, on the other hand, is a comedy first and serious second. I realize all I’m really talking about here are the inherent differences between comedies and dramas, but I just found it interesting to find that both movies, though they had differing approaches and scopes, had satisfied me equally in both regards.
All in all I truly and thoroughly enjoyed Gunless, as both a western and a comedy, and I recommend anyone interest check it out.