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FREDERIC FORREST AND STEACH KEACH ARE 'THE DION BROTHERS'

Title: The Dion Brothers Year: 1974 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 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, so the last half consists of the siblings, a cross between Laurel/Hardy and Dillinger/Nelson, escaping police and mob assassins as 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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