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The Old Man and The Gun - Review

The Old Man & The Gun

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ROBERT Redford rode to big screen stardom playing one of two charismatic outlaw robbers in Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid way back in 1969. There’s a nice symmetry to the fact that he’s chosen to bring down the curtain on his acting career by playing another charismatic bank robber.

The Old Man & The Gun is inspired by the true story of Forrest Tucker (played by Redford), a career criminal and relentless prison escapee, who embarked upon a particularly memorable bank robbing spree in the twilight of his career.

His exploits eventually attract the attention of police officer, John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who resolves to catch him after successfully piecing his crimes together.

But while all the elements would seem to be in place for a rousing cat-and-mouse game between the two punctuated by slickly executed bank robbery set pieces, David Lowery’s film is actually a leisurely character study that eschews many of its genre trappings.

Yes, there are robberies, but they are politely orchestrated, while the most audacious – an armoured car heist involving Tucker and two elderly companions (played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits) – takes place off-camera.

And while Redford and Affleck do play cat-and-mouse, this again takes place in a manner that demonstrates the mutual respect the two men had for each other and isn’t as dogged or relentless as it could have been.

For these reasons, Lowery’s film may not cater to all tastes. This isn’t about sending Redford off in a blaze of glory, unlike the Sundance Kid.

Rather, it feels like a celebration: first and foremost of Redford but also of his era of filmmaking. It’s a film so steeped in the look and feel of the time in which it is set, that it could almost have been made then and dusted off for contemporary audiences.

Lowery is paying homage to a bygone era of filmmaking [an era in which his leading man thrived], while affording Redford a platform to remind audiences of why his appeal has been so enduring. And Redford grasps the opportunity to play with both hands.

His Tucker is a charmer, whether reassuring those he steals from with a kindly demeanour, or courting a potential new love interest in the form of Sissy Spacek’s widower, Jewel, a ranch owner he seeks to provide for. The scenes between them are particularly playful.

His interplay with Affleck is great, too, almost flirtatious in its own different kind of way, while he gets to share some nice banter with Glover and Waits.

Admittedly, the emphasis on Redford does come at the expense of the character he’s playing at times. A different movie (which could yet be made, with greater emphasis on action) might have included more shading, or probed the darker side to Tucker further. Rather, this is just hinted at in an extended interview Affleck conducts with the daughter Tucker seems oblivious of (nicely played by Elisabeth Moss).

Lowery instead works hard to keep Tucker likeable, even injecting a bittersweet tone belatedly into the movie as the veteran realises he is addicted to the thrill of the job more than anything else in life. It’s a realisation that makes for a lovely final scene.

The Old Man & The Gun therefore offers a fond farewell to Redford that captivates thanks to another virtuoso performance from its charismatic veteran.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 93mins
UK Release Date: December 7, 2018

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