Then Old Man & The Gun

THE OLD MAN & THE GUN. Starring: Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, and Tom Waits. Directed by David Lowery. Rated M (Coarse language). 94 min.

This American crime-comedy is based loosely on a factual account of the life of real-life criminal, Forrest Tucker. Its script is drawn from an article of the same name that was published in “The New Yorker” magazine in 2003 by David Grann who covered Tucker’s extraordinary career in lawbreaking. The movie is said to be the final film for Redford, who is 82 years of age.

The film is set in 1981 when Tucker (Robert Redford) and his elderly associates (Danny Glover and Tom Waits) were dubbed the “Over the Hill Gang”. The gang robbed well over 50 banks in the early 1980s, and it took Police years to finally catch Tucker. Throughout his life, Tucker has been imprisoned 18 times, and has escaped 16 times from the prisons that have tried to hold him.

This is a clever and witty movie. It shows Tucker making a daring escape from San Quentin Prison. The police look for him, while he continues his string of bank robberies the moment he escapes.

Redford plays the gentleman who charms his victims while managing also to rob them. He is always polite to those he robs, anddoesn’t ever put bullets in his gun. He allows bank tellers to see that he has a gun, which is tucked away in the pocket of his smart suit or jacket. His kind words make him likeable enough that tellers have little problem in handing the bank’s money over.

On one of his early bank heists, Forrest meets a widowed woman called Jewel (Sissy Spacek) and helps her fix her broken-down truck which is stuck on the side of the road, and he uses it for cover as the police cars speed on by. The two of them find romance together, and Tucker tries to meet Jewel whenever he “works” in her area. Jewel has no idea of Tucker’s criminal past until he is arrested. Tucker visits Jewel as regularly as he can, and she waits for him after he is arrested. She takes him home from prison after he has served his time, but he immediately goes back to bank robbing, which is the action that he loves the most.

John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is the lead Texan detective, whose job it is to recapture Forrest. Hunt is fascinated by Tucker, as the number of robberies he is responsible for increases. He is intrigued by how good Tucker is, and Tucker’s dedicated devotion to his craft. Hunt comes to realise that Tucker doesn’t rob at all for the money. He simply likes what he does, and is driven by the pleasure of doing it. Tucker sustains his relationship with Jewel without her ever finding out he is a confirmed criminal and a notorious escapee, and Jewel can’t believe that Tucker is the man he says he is. Pursuing Tucker becomes a game for Hunt, which he also enjoys, and Hunt starts to wonder whether he really wants to catch Tucker - but he does.

This crime-comedy is a period piece that affectionately recreates the America of the early 1980s, and it establishes an environment of the past with style and an eye for detail. The film does not engage in any heavy drama about Tucker. Rather, it chooses to tell its story simply. Redford is an engaging, charismatic presence that hardly ever leaves the screen, and he establishes wonderful chemistry with Sissy Spacek.

There is an intimacy and naturalness to the images that this film projects; and victims, and those who victimise them, are treated tenderly. The film hints at dramatic depths, but keeps its hints firmly at the surface level of its plot line. Mellow enjoyment of times past are created smoothly, and the film uses a great actor to go there. The musical soundtrack of light Jazz is a soft, background accompaniment to the action; costuming is authentic for the period it reflects; and there is hardly any violence in the film to complicate anything the film might otherwise say.

This is a light, enjoyable film that has been made chiefly to pay nostalgic homage to the man who stars in it. It moves at a very leisurely pace, and it romanticises the man it honours.

Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcastin

Entertainment One Films.

Released November 15th., 2018


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