“The Old Man and The Gun” is the story of a long career, full of adventures, and a farewell that everybody knew was coming but they almost hoped it would never arrive. You may be asking: “Are you talking about the life of Forrest Tucker or Robert Redford’s retirement from acting?”
Honestly… it’s a little bit of both.
Yes, “The Old Man and the Gun” has been cited by Redford as his official retirement from acting. Redford joined the film’s cast in 2016 and filming began in the spring of 2017; not long ago, in August of this year, Redford announced his intentions to step away from in front of the camera, for good.
He could not have chosen a sweeter note to end his career and legacy on.
“The Old Man and the Gun” depicts the true story of Forrest Tucker, a career criminal who was first imprisoned at the age of 15, would successfully escape from prison 18 times, and would eventually become a geriatric gangster of sorts, using his age and natural charm to commit highly civilized bank robberies. This would make him a most unconventional folk hero.
Director David Lowery steers this ship and Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss, Tika Sumpter, and even “BlackKklansman’s” very own John Davis Washington join Redford in one hell of an ensemble. Seriously. One of the best groups of actors to come together at the cinema, this year.
An initial impression of “The Old Man and the Gun” that I had was that it is the spiritual cousin of the 2011 film, “Bernie.” I had to chuckle at what a funny place Texas is, that we can become so enamored of our criminals. Both films explore the almost folkloric status of criminal individuals who so effectively capture their community, that you find yourself rooting against the letter of the law.
Texas always occupies a sort of mythological place, in film, and the size of that character does not slip by unnoticed in “The Old Man and the Gun.”
Redford does an incredible job playing both the mild-mannered gentleman and the likable scamp. His is the lengths ahead performance in a strong field of actors. Everyone is giving 100, Redford bumps it to 110. Casey Affleck as dogged Dallas officer, John Hunt, is nothing to sneeze at, either. Their dynamic is perhaps my favorite in the entire film. Tom Waits also delivered a performance that quickly became an audience favorite, in my screening.
Biopics are a fascinating thing. Oftentimes, the world is stranger than fiction and there are a million crazy stories to tell. Maybe it’s just me, but biopics have a way of dragging themselves down. As if we have to really cram the sense of reality into the fantastical. If these stories weren’t out of the ordinary, we wouldn’t be putting them to film. Something so refreshing about “The Old Man and the Gun” is that it does not take itself too seriously. It allows the characters to be the larger-than-life figures that they are and the humor flows like cash out of a bank into a briefcase. When you see the film, you will recognize that that’s quite a substantial flow.
I’m a sucker for a good quote, especially when delivered in the pretty packaging of a feature film. One line in “The Old Man and the Gun” tugged on the ole heartstrings and has remained with me, as I think about this film:
“I’m not talking about making a living, I’m just talking about living.”
Right in my feelings, man.
What can be said about passion projects and a long life of adventure and seeking an existence that is more than the ordinary, without getting overly sappy about the parallels between Tucker and Redford? Not much, I’m afraid. What a fitting send-off for a truly stellar career.
My verdict? “The Old Man and The Gun” has set itself up perfectly as a festival darling. The tides have already turned in Redford’s favor as a serious Oscar contender, following the announcement of his acting retirement. For the casual filmgoer, perhaps it is a matinee or a rental. But, if you want to be on the level for the awards season, you’ll need to put this one on the must-see list.
“The Old Man and The Gun” will begin a limited run on September 28, with a full theatrical release on October 5.
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. She currently serves as the Lead Film Contributor for Shuffle Online; other notable bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.