Representing EoM as press, contributor Hunter Heilman attended the first annual Film Fest 919 in Raleigh, NC, to review several films that are either in limited release now or are yet to be released. Or, in the case of The Old Man and The Gun, the just released.
When it comes to the career of Robert Redford, there’s a lot more to unpack than most actors of his age. Redford, over the course of 58 years, has achieved a level of status within nearly every genre of film across the board, from classic westerns, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, to unflinching dramas, like All the Presidents Men, to superhero suspense thrillers, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Redford truly has been there, done that, and come all the way back again. Redford’s tease of his final film role has come for years and, with The Old Man & The Gun, the time seems to have finally come…at least that we’re aware of…to say goodbye to Redford.
Forrest Tucker (Redford) is a lifelong criminal who is heading into his early 70’s. He robs banks throughout the country −somewhat for financial gain, but mostly just for fun − along with his longtime co-workers Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits). With a quick flash of the gun and the “sweet old man” approach, they find that their quiet and friendly methods get them in and out quickly. When their robberies become noted by the general public, Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) becomes bound and determined to catch the old men to put them away forever. Meanwhile, Forrest strikes up a relationship with widower Jewel (Sissy Spacek), who gives Forrest a look inside the domestic life he gave up for a life of crime.
The Old Man & the Gun is an incredibly charming film that’s light, airy, and mostly inconsequential, which almost makes it a bit unfortunate as Redford’s final film role. Rather than going out with a bang, Redford returns to his roots in a neo-Western romp that feels much like a greatest hits reel of Redford’s past work. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as the charm exuded from Redford, as well as his relationship with the rest of the cast, proves why he was such a power player over so many years.
The only thing is, this isn’t just Redford’s show, as it’s Spacek who gives him a run for his money. Clever, but never cocky, Jewel reads through Forrest’s initial charms and attempts to tap into who he truly is. Spacek, ever since the likes of Carrie, has always had such a screen presence about her, one that’s truly unique to Spacek. She has such a gentle demeanor about her movement and speech, but her characters always defy that stereotype, digging into something fiercely strong and beautifully defiant. And this is no exception. This is the best Spacek has been in years.
Lowery appears to feel more comfortable with his direction in this, his fourth film, than he has in his previous ones, Pete’s Dragon notwithstanding. Lowery’s last feature, A Ghost Story, while unique, felt narratively confused at points, looking to feel more unique than it actually was. Here, Lowery is given a straightforward film to approach and make his own, which he does with great style. The gritty approach to such a surprisingly lovely story gives the film a dichotomous feel that actually works out well in its favor. It’s not trying incredibly hard to feel like a ‘70s film, but is rather echoing the basic essence of one, without overstepping it.
There isn’t an incredible amount that can be read into The Old Man & the Gun without repeating the same sentiments over-and-over. It’s inconsequential, but it’s such a lovely film that you’re more than willing to ignore it and go along with the film for exactly what it is. Redford and Spacek are lovely together and give some truly wonderful performances. Lowery has begun to really tap into his style as a filmmaker as he grows to a more recognizable status, which makes The Old Man & the Gun feel like a true win. It’s not particularly memorable and, especially as a send-off to Redford’s career, it doesn’t really seem like a satisfyingly closed door, but for what it is up front, The Old Man & the Gun is a grand old time.
And let’s be real here, Redford is going to come back in two years when he finds “an amazing script” that pulls him out of retirement. A studio can only dream of a marketing ploy so perfect.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5