REVIEW: The Old Man and the Gun

So this is the “real” Going In Style right?

70 year old gentleman, Forrest Tucker, finds joy in continuous, well-planned heists whilst police detective, John Hunt, proceeds to pursue the thief across America.

As the supposed final outing from the incredible Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun is a charming, quaint joy of a film that respects the legacy of a cinema legend like Redford whilst also telling a uniquely heartwarming tale on life and the ultimate pursuit of happiness. A satisfyingly short film which remains tight and to the point, The Old Man and the Gun is a flick that proves to be rather difficult to unlike with solid performances, sweeping cinematography and a sweet little old script to boot. Although, despite really enjoying myself from beginning to end in this film, my whole opinion of the feature almost instantaneously changed when the credits began to roll and the first name I saw was that of writer, director, David Lowery.

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(Fox Searchlight 2018)

Now if you do know who David Lowery is, he’s the director of 2016’s Pete’s Dragon but also the filmmaker behind smaller, unknown pictures such as Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and one of my favourite films of 2017, A Ghost StoryA Ghost Story may very well be one of the most fascinating and compelling original Arthouse dramas I have seen in recent memory, offering up a vast, sprawling cosmic and soulful odyssey of the sort with Lowery’s frequent collaborator, Casey Affleck, at its heart. I would say I have been anticipating Lowery’s next move for a while now, although, since I had no idea he was working on The Old Man and the Gun, this outing has come as quite the surprise. Despite not being at the heights of A Ghost Story, Lowery’s newest effort is an effortlessly enjoyable watch that uses film’s best techniques to highlight a star and spark a pleasing and satisfying flutter.

Noticeably shot on film with some inviting, imperfect grain, The Old Man and the Gun could have easily been mistaken as a film made in the 1970s. Everything about the feature felt timeless and flavoured by every recognisable era of film. A suitable send-off to Redford, who has been front and centre in American cinema for decades, most noticeable for his leading role in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and his eventual founding of Sundance Film Festival, the legend caps off his magnificent run in pure style. If you have ever seen Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises for which was Miyazaki’s last film until he revealed he’d be coming out of retirement (again), I found Redford’s relationship with The Old Man and the Gun as a member of the same ballpark. The Wind Rises may have been a part-fictional biographical film about an airplane designer, however, at its core, as a send-off to Miyazaki, it was undeniably a metaphorical biopic on Miyazaki’s legacy in film; The Old Man and the Gun was basically the same with Redford.

Lowery’s part-fictional biographical film on Forrest Tucker was seemingly tailor-made for Redford. The film may be about a man robbing banks out of pure joy, but its inexplicably a film that completely mirror’s Redford’s tall tales on the silver screen. Entitled the gentlemen by many and the man with an eternal smile by others, Redford and his screen stand-in, Forrest Tucker, go hand in hand as the embodiment of chivalry in their respected fields. And so of course, with all that said, Redford was legendary in The Old Man and the Gun. The charm, the genius and the heroics were all there in Redford’s performance as he, along with the rest of the cast, really sold The Old Man and the Gun as a sweet experience. Yet, despite the brilliance of Redford and the film’s clear motivations to stage a proper send-off for the actor, I would go so far to say part of the film’s problems would have to be how it leaned too far into a farewell event film rather than just one singular compelling story. For example, towards the end, the audience were gifted with an awesome montage sequence that certainly entertained but also practically forced the audience into basking in Redford’s legacy as an actor rather than just further exploring the character of Forrest Tucker. Although I love Redford and wanted the film to salute him in the most respectful of ways, at times I thought The Old Man and the Gun existed only to provide a vessel for the audiences to explore Redford rather than Tucker, when the film should predominately be about Tucker. What I’m saying is, the metaphor weakened at times and the film occasionally had trouble in distinguishing Redford’s story with Tucker’s.

Yet, returning to the state of the performances in The Old Man and the Gun, both Danny Glover and Tom Waits provided great support to Redford in his shining moments. Sissy Spacek was an absolute gem as I hope many do not completely overlook her powerful performance in this film in favour of just Redford’s. Lastly, portraying John Hunt, Casey Affleck really charmed in his performance as a tired, bored detective awaiting a case to really spark joy back into his career. Whenever Affleck appears in a film, whether a bad one or a good one, he really devotes his all to his roles and here, sharing the screen with Redford, he never faltered in execution. If anything, and not to the detriment of Affleck’s performance, I would have preferred to see more consistency between Forrest Tucker’s narrative and John Hunt’s. The two’s stories juxtaposed each other for the majority of the film, playing an intriguing cat and mouse game, despite both men never really meeting until over halfway in, featuring only two fleeting confrontations. I would not say I would have liked the film to follow a more Catch Me If You Can style of storytelling but I would have liked the two characters of Tucker and Hunt to either have more interaction or more evenness on the subject of the two’s contrasting tales. It’s not exactly a huge problem, but more a recognizable inconsistency when watching the film – you know, just a nitpick.

Yet, the music choices, and as I noted before, the cinematography, really made the film standout. The Old Man and the Gun worked on multiple levels as, I would note, a real crowd pleaser. Never shying away from its opinion on the true American dream and one’s subsequent pursuit for happiness, Forrest Tucker in the film was almost painted as less sinister, more emotionally endearing version of the Joker. He’s a man who does indeed watch the world burn but not with villainous intentions. He does what he does because its fun – because its living – because what really is life without a little risk, and ultimately, who really cares what everyone else thinks. Tucker was very much a man ahead of the curve – and so was Redford. The living legend that was, and is, the Sundance Kid was a man that inspired many and created a path for talent to spur on into modern cinema. The Old Man and the Gun may not be a perfect film but is one to warm the heart and give a cheering, pleasurable wink and a grin to its audience, much like Forrest Tucker himself.

I personally really loved this film. Short and quick with lovely pacing, Lowery continues to prove himself as an accomplished overlooked modern filmmaker with capabilities to work in any genre. So, lastly I say to Robert Redford himself; thank you for what you have done for cinema on a whole. You may say you’re done and out of the game entirely, but like Tucker, a man who never retired, I cannot help but believe that you too have more to give to the magic of the movies – for legends, you see… they never die.

The Old Man and the Gun is a bloody… CRUSADE!!

 

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