“He was sort of a gentleman.”
Clocking in with a run-time just over 90 minutes long, The Old Man & the Gun is both charming and surprisingly languid, going nowhere and doing so rather quickly. That’s not to suggest the scenery gives us nothing to chew on or to look at along the way. In fact, the entire picture looks as if its been doused in the deep, evocative, studied colors of a sunset. As is though, the film radiates with warm, fleeting visuals which elevate a narrative that’s otherwise incomplete and unfulfilling.
It’s quite easy to be fall under the temporary spell of The Old Man & the Gun. Take it from Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a widower who randomly stumbles upon Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), a bank robber by profession who freelances in the art of frequent and inventive prison escapes. He’s now older, maybe even a little wiser, and yet his aged disposition remains absolutely boyish. Forrest actively seeks out danger and cop car chases. It seems that life is an amusement park to him, and it’s a whole lot more fun when you finagle your way to the front of the biggest roller coaster’s line instead of paying for a fast pass. He knows he’s going to be caught and tossed to the back or maybe even thrown out of the park altogether, at least until he sneaks his way back in. People get creative when they find something they can’t go without.
Forrest and Jewel begin to frequent each other’s company (her name is about as on the nose of movies get). Meanwhile he continues sticking up banks with his partners in crime Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), neither of whom matter much to the story and only serve as filler in a film that’s somehow short while still overstaying its welcome. The other half of the movie concerns John Hunt (Casey Affleck), a Detective who seemingly gets involved out of sheer boredom. It’s never very inspiring or interesting when the characters themselves don’t seem to be fully invested in their own stories, and although The Old Man & the Gun is only semi-true, the whole thing feels like an unbecoming and comfortably stale fairy tale. I couldn’t tell if it wanted to be a romanticized depiction of fruitless endeavors or a rebuke of an addiction that’s been confused as purpose.
For something that takes on the tone of a script by the late great William Goldman – whose characters Redford helped shape into icons – The Old Man & the Gun is missing bravado and motivation. David Lowery ranks among the best independent filmmakers of our time, and while he’s never made a feature that misses the dartboard entirely, here his approach films counter-intuitive. His latest picture is rushed and accomplishes virtually nothing dramatically, two things that go against the very basic premise of the entire picture. The Old Man & the Gun presents itself as an awards darling when it’s really a career retrospective for its newly retired leading man. Redford claims this to be his last performance, and if that’s believed to be true, one of cinema’s greatest liars manages to pull off his final trick despite the bumps. We can tell he’s lying and telling half truths, and we don’t care because it’s so disarming it becomes effortlessly arresting.
“Do the thing that you wanna do.”
Rating: 3 out of 5