Though it possesses many of the qualities shared by the best oddball ’70s movies—brazen tonal shifts, eccentric flourishes, offbeat characterizations—The Gravy Train runs off the tracks very quickly. Among other problems, the film is primarily a comedy but it isn’t funny, and the picture’s main attraction is the buddy-movie dynamic of two characters who aren’t colorful enough to sustain interest, separately or together. So, while it’s very easy to parse the film’s underwhelming content and discern how the material could have been developed into something more worthwhile, the finished picture lacks emotional punch, narrative momentum, and wit; the only real virtues on display are competent technical execution and vigorous acting, but these aren’t enough to justify the chore of watching The Gravy Train. Alternatively titled The Dion Brothers, the movie is about—you guessed it—the Dion brothers, two schemers from West Virginia mining country. Calvin (Stacy Keach) is a flashy chatterbox who has gotten involved with big-city criminals, while Rut (Frederic Forrest) is a slow-witted bumpkin back in the old hometown. When Calvin joins a crew planning a big heist, he talks his employers into letting him bring Rut aboard—but after the heist goes south and the brothers realize they’ve been double-crossed, they seek out the gangster (Barry Primus) who betrayed them. Along the way, the brothers pick up a screechy floozy (Margot Kidder), who accompanies them through various adventures. Co-written by Terrence Malick (under a pseudonym), The Gravy Train is dull and plodding, from its underwhelming opening—Calvin stages one of the lamest take-this-job-and-shove-it tantrums in movie history—to its stupidly downbeat ending. Despite valiant efforts at creating enjoyable characterizations, Forrest, Keach, and Kidder are undercut at every turn by lackluster writing, and it says a lot that the most amusing moment in the picture involves Keach using a live lobster as a weapon.
The Gravy Train: LAME