Film review: ‘THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Restrained true crime drama The Old Man and The Gun is purportedly Robert Redford’s last film as an actor. It seems appropriate that it’s a meditation on ageing and the forces that defined a person’s life.

This is apparently a true story based on the life of bank robber Forrest Tucker who, in 1981, led a trio of elderly crooks known as the ‘Over the Hill Gang’ on a crime spree across the US. According to the film, Forrest would calmly walk into a bank, intimate to the teller he had a gun then politely relieve them of their cash. His criminal history actually stretched back to childhood leading him to spend many years behind bars although he managed to escape from custody an astonishing 16 times. Following his latest series of robberies, he’s pursued by grumpy, self-doubting detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) with whom he develops a begrudging respect and even affection.

This low-key, slow-burn crime story won’t be to all tastes. Those wanting a violent, high-octane action drama will be fidgeting in their seats throughout and even those just wanting a slick, pacy heist film will find it a little too inert. Those who prefer personal stories and slowly unspooling character-based narratives will be entranced.

Redford brings his usual intelligence and understated dignity to the role of Tucker. As a restless and socially-detached criminal who couldn’t stop running and one who engages in a cat and mouse game with a detective, Tucker recalls Frank Abagnale in Stephen Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. Sissy Spacek makes a welcome appearance as his latter-day love interest, Jewel although her sporadic appearances mean we learn little about her background. Danny Glover and Tom Waits also appear as Tucker’s partners in crime but aren’t given quite enough opportunity to develop their characters.

The film is in many ways a homage to 1970’s cinema and to capture the sense of a bygone period, director David Lowery and cinematographer Joe Anderson have shot the film with filters designed to give it a grainy texture but it actually makes the film look a little too murky.

With the class of actors involved and a few fine set pieces, particularly between Redford and Affleck, this will be satisfying for a more mature audience but a little too torpid for some cinemagoers.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: True crime/ drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): David Lowery.

Release date: 15th Nov 2018.

Running time: 93 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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