Never stop feeling alive. Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is a career criminal, so very skilled at doing what he does…which is rob banks. Being incarcerated 16 times doesn’t deter him, as the 70-year-old Tucker always manages to break out and continue his craft. The crazy thing? He’s getting better at it in advanced age, robbing numerous spots in a single day flanked by other golden year thieves in Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Watts).
Along the way, he finds someone he’s interested in when he’s not pulling off jobs in Jewel (Sissy Spacek), who accepts him for who he is and what he does. The fact is, Tucker isn’t a stereotypical criminal and happens to be an affable individual who leaves a good impression on the people he comes across. Still, being a criminal means the feds are on his trail, including John Hunt (Casey Affleck), a detective looking to make a splash bringing down the “Over The Hill” gang.
If Widows was too heavy for those who enjoy their crime capers on the lighter side, The Old Man & The Gun might be more in their proverbial wheelhouse. Director/writer David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story) brings a Cottonelle-like touch to a real-life criminal that hardly feels biographical. What The Old Man & The Gun lacks in weight, it makes up for in whimsicality.
Clearly inspired by old-school cinema, The Old Man & The Gun carries a worn-in, slightly archaic visual aesthetic from the decades where its lead actor became a superstar. Lowery loves montages, title cards to denote time, and smooth-yet-rapid transition shots and wipes to tell the tale of the thief adapted from a 2003 New Yorker article. Add in a crisp, jazzy score from composer David Hart and The Old Man & The Gun oozes sophistication from a presentation level. The best scenes are actually the simple ones where his two stars chat idly about their lives and the nature of what they do.
The Old Man & The Gun is a refreshingly brisk 90-minute feature that hardly feels awards-baity or self-indulgent like some biographies can be, and that “biography” word is used extremely loosely here. Light is the descriptor that has been thrown around and for good reason; this isn’t so much of a character probe as it is a character poke. There are moments in the movie that beg for more depth and substance mining from Lowery, and what is presented is the bare minimum, uninterested in delving into the psyche of this atypical criminal. Sure, there are flashes and a question implicitly asked about whether it’s better to live doing wrong than to have never lived at all. Yet, it’s like there’s a hidden gear that one knows exists but for whatever reason, it isn’t used. If there’s one takeaway message, it would probably be the idea that manners, subtlety, and professionalism can go a long way. People can like you even when you’re doing wrong to them…as long you do it with class!
Class and professionalism is a perfect segue into describing Redford. His turn in The Old Man & The Gun can be seen as an all-encompassing, 90-minute love letter to the roles that brought him to the forefront as a talented (and extremely dashing) icon. The charisma and ability he has to captivate and endear himself to a viewer through a smirk or the cool, controlled timbre of his voice hasn’t left. He’s the star of the show, but don’t overlook Spacek making her first appearance in six years. There’s something magical about the scenes she and Redford occupy, with an end scene devoid of dialogue saying more than words ever could. A sneakily impressive cast is present with Oscar winner Affleck, Glover, Waits, Tika Sumpter, and John David Washington, though they’re all window dressing for Redford.
Never say never in anything, and people pivot on supposed finalities all the time. But even if Redford regrets announcing and publicizing his swan song, it sounds like The Old Man & The Gun is going to be just that. Fire one in the sky for this old man.
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