The Old Man & The Gun Review
David Lowery's jazz-soaked tribute to a star and his era, Old Man and the Gun is a gentle, almost happy peep into the life of a man who finds it easier to be a legendary story rather than an actual person with real ties and responsibilities.
Robert Redford's Forrest Tucker, the old man with the gun, has spent a lifetime robbing banks and stores and diners and nothing makes him more happy. He doesn't do it for the money nor for the fame. As someone in the film puts it, "I don't care what you do. Just do whatever actually makes you happy." The title of the film might lead you to think that maybe Redford uses a gun to threaten people into giving him the money but it's actually quite the opposite: Tucker has never fired his gun in his whole life, it's not his style. Why threaten with violence when you can just simply ask.
Lowery treats his protagonist with a certain degree of awe and reverence, a tragic hero who isn't really a hero. Lowery lets him be an enigma, the stuff of stories, to truly allow the audiences to be on the side of someone who is essentially a robber; it's easier to put your weight behind someone who you know you shouldn't support but can't help yourself from doing so either. And then occasionally, the curtain is pulled back on all the courteous smiling and the charming flirtations and the helpful attitude to reveal what's inside: a man crippled by addiction, who can't help himself from leaving a trail of broken hearts and trust every time he tries to get away from that what ails him.
Lowery's writing and direction are like a stick, which he uses to prop up the treatment and allow the characters and their interplay to shine. Even the top-notch camerawork by Joe Anderson is nimble footed like a dancer, carrying the narrative from one scene to the next with immense grace and even a few pirouettes every now and then. Daniel Hart's jazzy musical score plays a tremendous role in setting the old-timey, smooth tone of the film, and Robert Redford does the rest.
Redford, in what might or might not be his final acting role, is incredibly easy-going and just so easy to fall for too. Every line, every wisecrack, every wink is dipped in that old-school charm from his heydey but there's always an unmistakeable sadness to him that comes with his knowledge that when the next bank job comes along, he'll be just as helpless to turn away as he had been the dozens of other times since many many years and even when he was caught in the act and spent years of his life in jail. There's a self-destructiveness to the character but there's also the deep realization that comes with age: he knows by now what it is that truly makes him happy and he's finally coming to terms with being proud of what he does.
The supporting cast provides able support and so does David Lowery's writing-directing capabilities but The Old Man & The Gun truly belongs only to Redford, and as potential swan songs go, there couldn't be a more loving and knowing one.
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