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THE DION BROTHERS

title: THE DION BROTHERS
year: 1974
cast: Stacy Keach, Frederic, Forrest, Robert Romanus, Denny Miller
rating: ***

THE DION BROTHERS, originally titled THE GRAVY TRAIN, if taken as a serious crime film, seems kinda bad at first; even, at times, embarrassing. Terrence Malick and co-writer Bill Kerby's script is riddled with cliches, and the characters banter the words like a mediocre Las Vegas standup act. But when you realize it's a comedy/action buddy team-up, it's apparent they knew what they were doing: creating a fun, and sporadically gritty, heist flick. Frederic Forrest and Stacy Keach are blue collar brothers from West Virginia. Keach has moved to Washington DC and is a con-man in the Insurance Industry i.e. a guy who wants to get rich quick. Forrest is an ex-convict working in a coal mine who joins Keach and some other slackers (including Denny Miller and Robert Romanus) to rob an armored truck, which, like all heist films, doesn't go as planned. The last half consists of the Dion Brothers, a cross between Laurel/Hardy and Dillinger/Nelson, escaping police and mob assassins at every turn. The two leads, both terrific actors, get better as the film itself improves during the third act: when the situation gets more and more desperate. And tough guy actor/director Jack Starrett guides the few actions scenes nicely, resulting in a terrific old-school shootout reminiscent of the classic gangster movies: where crime doesn't pay.
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