IN the 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore suggested that Canadians are a sane and peaceable folk compared to Americans because we have not been steeped in the fear and violence of American gun culture.
A few years before that, in 1995, Moore expressed pretty much the same sentiment in his obscure comedy satire Canadian Bacon in which the U.S. president is heard to demand the release of a "hostage" of Canada with the immortal line: "Surrender her pronto, or we'll level Toronto."
Conceived in the same satiric template, Gunless is a western written and directed by William Phillips (Foolproof, Treed Murray) that plays with the same dynamic.
A trigger-happy American gunslinger known as The Montana Kid (Paul Gross, flaunting lavish hair extensions), barely having escaped a lynching, stumbles into the remote Canadian town of Barclay's Brush, pop. 29.
The outlaw assumes that the town is the same as any American burg, but whenever the Kid waves his pistol around and attempts to intimidate the locals, it's like the Canadians don't speak the same language. He attempts to call out the town lumbering blacksmith (Tyler Mane), but the big guy just walks away.
The Montana Kid wants a showdown. But his is the only six-shooter in all of Barclay's Brush, with the exception of a Civil War-era hand cannon currently in the possession of the prickly-but-winsome Jane (Sienna Guillory) who demands that the Kid work for it...
The movie is sporadically amusing, but it works against itself in a couple of ways, most notably in casting affable Canuck Paul Gross as a violent Yank.
Gross is a handsome, extremely capable actor, but the movie actually cries out for some latter-day Lee Marvin to assume the role of the Montana Kid. Gross, who played the polite can-do mountie in the TV series Due South for many seasons, isn't a good fit, eh?
The movie's self-congratulatory tone -- at least we're not Americans -- also contravenes that much-prized Canadian virtue: Modesty.
It's OK for Michael Moore to praise Canadians for not being gun crazy and for choosing peaceful resolutions over violent confrontations.
When a Canadian says that, it seems downright unseemly. If you don't mind my saying.