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THE OLD MAN & THE GUN gets 8.5/10 Armed and charming


Directed by David Lowery

Starring Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tom Waits

8.5/10

It’s hard to come by a feel-good crime film, but 2018 does happen to be full of surprises. The Old Man & the Gun is admittedly a rather formal film, but nonetheless lovingly crafted, reminiscent of the easy-going 80s drama-comedies, with a bit of a New Hollywood vibe that adds some adventurous directorial punctuation throughout.

Opening with the title “This is, mostly, a true story”, Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is a rather successful and charming prison escapee and bank robber, able to step into a bank and rob it dry without raising his voice or dropping his cheery smile. After one such robbery, he meets Jewel (Sissy Spacek), whose mature sense of adventure seems to match that of Forrest’s. Not one to keep big secrets, Forrest tells her of his criminal deeds and she becomes smitten with his happy-go-lucky anything-goes lifestyle of (relatively) harmless crimes.

The gradually unravelling relationship between these two is teased out in an adorable and leisurely manner, all the while making Jewel seem like her own character rather than an extension of Forrest’s life as she clarifies her own values against his, which is highlighted in one of many memorable and quietly fascinating moments involving this couple.

For what may be and is hopefully not his last on-screen acting role, Redford gives a stellar performance where the simple, yet ecstatic joy comes through effortlessly from him, making this cheery criminal character hard not to love. It may not be an attention-grabbing performance, and most of the other actors are working on this same even calibre, but they all still fill out these wonderful characters superbly.

Despite the film feeling emotionally lightweight, it gradually builds upon that emotional integrity through these characters and their interactions. Once the film lands with a pivotal point for them, the emotional effect is all the more surprising and striking. This is a film that can get a lot out of the audience through rather little.

Perhaps the film’s story, if laid out, sounds a tad clichéd and nothing groundbreaking. But it’s in the many details that writer-director David Lowery amps up this story to just about its maximum potential to provide a wholly satisfying and entertaining film. It’s great to see how much he’s expanding out as a versatile filmmaker, and having preceded this with a live-action Disney kids film, Pete’s Dragon, and an arthouse existential drama, A Ghost Story, who knows what’s next for him (a martial arts film?)

He’s not only directed this true-life tale with an assured aplomb, but also scribed it with the utmost economy, not wasting a single word in this amusing script where the characters can so directly express their worldviews through the simplest of dialogue (or even silent actions). The Old Man & the Gun is a delightful and genuine crowd-pleaser, perhaps more so for those who like to hold their criminals in high esteem.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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