Movie Review: The Old Man and the Gun

Based on a true story, The Old Man and the Gun, directed by David Lowery, is about a geriatric man who robs banks because it makes him happy. The film stars Robert Redford as the titular old man, Sissy Spacek as his companion and Danny Glover and Tom Waits as his sometime cohorts.

Our love of bank heist films has been ingrained in our culture since the days of the constant retellings of the real life public enemies in the thirties. These fabled crooks stuck it to the man the only way they knew how and in a way we all wish we could. Many filmmakers take this genre and make it into thrilling, super serious stories about professional thieves, but The Old Man and the Gun just isn't one of those stories.

The film is full of charm. Most of that has to be due to Robert Redford. His grizzled face crinkles in just the right way when he smiles and his gorgeous baby blues sparkle and invite you to stare. Every bank he robs he doesn't leave employees with a sense of dread, rather a sense that this is just a minor set back and everything will be all right in the end. The ease of the performance comes from the ease of the character who's not trying to make a living, just trying to live. It's the perfect showcase for Redford's immense talents and if this truly is his last acting job, he's left us with an incredible high note.

Our gentleman robber may carry a gun, but unlike Chekhov's fabled piece, it stays still, never firing. This fact only endears him to us more as if we should forgive his crimes because he hasn't hurt anyone. In fact we never see the violence that does take place. Lowery keeps our eyes focused away from the violence inherent with any type of crime. We see the repercussions, but aren't glorified by the sight of weapons firing simultaneously as many films of this genre revel in showing. Lowery instead focuses on his subjects as one man who loves every bit of what he does and one man who can't see the point of it anymore and how each's involvement with the other is of benefit to them. They love the cat and mouse game as much as anything.

Even when these two finally meet, by chance, the scene is lacking grit in the best way. Affleck's Detective Hunt is as charmed as we are by Redford's Forrest Tucker. Neither threatens or puffs out their chest. They're just smooth as can be. They play the game hoping neither of them will actually win.

The supporting performances are all superb with Tom Waits and Sissy Spacek being the stand outs. The script is sharp and witty and Lowery has a great eye for lingering on some scenes, overlapping the dialogue of others, and shifting our focus to what will be important even if we don't know it.

I would recommend this film to all who want to be charmed and who can accept a languid caper without grand action set pieces.

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