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‘The Old Man & the Gun’ (review)

Produced by Bill Holderman, Robert Redford,
Anthony Mastromauro, Dawn Ostroff,
Jeremy Steckler, James D. Stern

Screenplay by David Lowery
Based on The Old Man and the Gun
by David Grann

Directed by David Lowery
Starring Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek,
Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tom Waits
Tika Sumpter, Elisabeth Moss

The Old Man and the Gun is a wonderful showcase for screen legend Robert Redford, with unspoken allusions to his entire career, including, of course, his most famous role in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

It may not end up being Redford’s last time in front of the camera after all (he’s recently walked back his comments about retiring), but he’s perfectly cast as Forrest Tucker, a real bank robber who made headlines in the ’80s for his scattered string of bank robberies.

The outlaw is now an elderly man, who easily charms everyone everywhere he goes, including the many bank managers and tellers he holds up. They’ve been robbed, sure, but they can’t help but admit what a perfect gentleman he was.

The film doesn’t disguise Redford’s wrinkles, even in flashbacks. (There are some visual fx artists credited, but he doesn’t appear to have been “de-aged” as has become the custom with older actors playing younger versions of themselves.)

The actor’s effortless charisma hasn’t dimmed one iota with age. When he lays on the charm, no one is immune, certainly not widow Jewel (Sissy Spacek) who has only some horses and a dog for company.
The chemistry between them is terrific and their flirtation more genuine than dozens of cinematic couples half or a quarter their age. It’s a delight to see these two share the screen.

The old codger even inspires grudging admiration in John Hunt, (Casey Affleck), the dogged cop on his trail. The more Hunt finds out about Forrest, the more he’s not sure if he actually wants to catch him.

Occasionally along for the ride are Tucker’s equally over-the-hill partners in crime, Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits). Actor-singer Waits lends his marvelously gravelly rasp to some of the most entertaining moments of the story. I’d happy welcome a film about just Waller’s exploits.

In the film even more briefly are BlackkKlansman star John David Washington, terribly underused as Hunt’s partner. And Keith Carradine appears only long enough for you to say, “Hey, that’s Keith Carradine.” Maybe there are extra scenes of theirs on the cutting-room floor?

Affleck is good in a fairly rote role, but it’s most certainly Redford’s film. I’ve always been a big fan of the previously underrated and now Oscar-winning Affleck, but it’s hard to watch him in a movie now and not think of his owned-up-to and apologized-for on-set past treatment of women. Especially when he’s kissing his on-screen wife (Tika Sumpter, who does what she can with the supportive wifely role).

That said, when the two men finally have a scene together, it does not disappoint.

This is Affleck’s third film with director David Lowery after Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and A Ghost Story; Lowery previously worked with Redford on the unexpectedly great remake of Pete’s Dragon and the rapport shows.

The film hits most of the character beats you’d expect, but it does it in an easy, effortless way.

While there are snatches of sadness here and there for the life Forrest could have lived if he wasn’t addicted to bank-robbing, the movie remains as deftly carefree and upbeat as its main character.

Whether or not this ends up being Redford’s last film role, The Old Man & the Gun is a more than worthy note to go out on.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

 

 

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