“Old Man & the Gun” (2018)
Running Time: 93 minutes
Written & Directed by: David Lowery
Featuring: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits and Sissy Spacek
Forrest Tucker:“Let’s take this place. Say it was a bank and say that counter up there was really a tellers window and you just walk in, look calm and so you just walk up, look her in the eye and you say ‘ma’am, this is a robbery’ and you show her the gun, like this..”
[makes a gun with his hand]
Forrest Tucker:“..and you say ‘I wouldn’t want you to get hurt cause I like you, I like you a lot, so don’t go breakin my heart now, ok’.”
There are so few actors or actresses working today in their eighties that still make movies where their name is the drawcard, two do come to mind, by no coincidence are they multi-hyphenates, one being Clint Eastwood (88) and the other being the star of this months excellent “Old Man & the Gun” (2018), Robert Redford (82), who is possibly one of the longest living A list stars of all time. There truly are few creative people who have been intimately involved with almost every part of show business for over nine decades who are still relevant as well as a true acting talent. This film was set up as a potential awards contender for this years Oscars, especially for Redford as a Best Actor Nominee who has never won that honour, in fact having only ever been nominated once in 1974 for “The Sting” (1973) which is a real travesty considering his career. Interestingly from the early 1980s through to the early 2010s Redford only acted sporadically instead focusing on his directing career as well as his independent film festival, Sundance, that will possibly end up being his enduring legacy. However over the past six years Redford has made nine movies all very good with high points including this release as well as the excellent “All is Lost” (2013) as well as the surprisingly good remake “Pete’s Dragon” (2016) which was directed by David Lowry and led him directly to this role.
“Old Man & the Gun” is a most unique film from a most unique writer and director in the inimitable as well as ubiquitous David Lowry who so far has directed some of the most unusual as well as original films of the past decade with one of those being a remake, “Pete’s Dragon”, and the effecting as well as one that years best “A Ghost Story” (2017). Here he has the challenge of taking on a true story as well as a period piece with two A list actors who are both excellent in their roles although one is limited and has to be applauded for getting out of the way of both the story and Robert Redford which shows the class of Oscar winner Casey Affleck. Here Lowry takes the kernel of an idea as well as a fairly simple story but imbues it with real emotion as well as tension to paint a portrait of a man in the twilight years of his life who is in such a cycle of destruction that even he doesn’t know why he does what he does when he has no real need of money or anything else as it turns out. The old adage that it is not the destination but the journey that is important has never felt so right even when he seemingly meets the woman of his dreams and a lifestyle that many would die for he self destructs, at least in others eyes. This entire narrative could be said to be a metaphor for Redford’s own career and journey where he has made decisions that at the time seem illogical but work out anyway, Sundance and his own directing career speak to that as well as the decisions in recent years in terms of his acting roles.
The movie revolves around 61 year old career criminal Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) who is a wanted man, having broken out of San Quentin. In 1981, after escaping from a police chase, Tucker sees a woman with a broken down car on the side of a Texas highway and pulls over to assist. Jewel (Sissy Spacek), who is grateful for his help, buys Tucker food at a diner. Despite introducing himself with a fake name, Tucker becomes drawn to Jewel to the point of revealing that he is a bank robber. Tucker goes on to conduct a string of heists, often without him having to draw the weapon under his coat. Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) compiles police sketches from witnesses who describe Tucker as charming. He then displays the sketches on the evening news, asking anyone with information to come forward. Shortly afterwards, Hunt’s investigation is taken over by the FBI. This is the basic structure of the plot which takes us to many familiar places within the genre although it ends in a way that may not feel wholly satisfying but is far more realistic than audiences may care to admit especially in terms of the life we lead while we are alive.
In the past four years or so I believe that Robert Redford has delivered two at the very least Oscar nominatable performances in the excellent “All is Lost” and in this new film in which he both carries the entire narrative as well as portraying a character who has to be smart, funny, serious and extremely vulnerable in a variety of scenes to a wide range of co-stars, not forgetting the audience who has to believe him every step of the way. Not only that but Redford who seems to have made a career of acting well with props has to deal with a multitude here which at times can be distracting but never once does he offer a false note staying true to the character in every scene, it is a wonder that he has not been recognised for this performance as he is as great the actor he has ever been, it is incredible to see. In support there are two previous Oscar winners in Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek who play protagonist as well as love interest respectively and who are as good as they have ever been. While Affleck definitely plays a supporting role it is Spacek who like Redford acts her age and is great to see onscreen especially acting with her great co-star, you can tell they had a ball working with each other, both knowing how to create a scene and where to go with it. Affleck on the other hand plays the protagonist as well as very much a supporting role that has little flash but he gives it presence that also comes into play as he needs to do a balancing act himself with wanting to catch a criminal but in a way seeing himself in that same person.
I really cannot make a secret of loving all of David Lowry’s movies so this one was high on my list and I was not letdown when I eventually watched this on DVD, it was excellent. I had actually heard of the subject of “Old Man & the Gun” before so it was with some excitement I waited on the release of this movie. To be fair it is less about the robberies and more about the man which was a plus as there are too many heist movies to name but the eventual reveal of the final main heist is well done which acts as the centrepiece of the film and is worth waiting for.
The movie asks some very important questions about life, growing old, the regard for the elderly as well as the possible legacy that we may or may not leave behind. It is also about relationships, what they are, what they mean and how long do we have to know someone for them to be important as well as how do we make them meaningful. As with all good films this does not set out to answer any of those questions but instead asks audiences to go on a journey, at the same time ask the questions of themselves, this is a gift by the director to not only the audience but to his cast as well. I would recommend this movie highly and it is a great addition to any collection, my only wish is that it was available as a Blu-ray or 4K discs.