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The Old Man and the Gun (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 5, 2020

The Old Man and the Gun


Starring Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter, Ari Elizabeth Johnson, Teagan Johnson, Gene Jones, John David Washington, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Barlow Jacobs, Augustine Frizzell, Jennifer Joplin, Lisa DeRoberts, Carter Bratton, Leah Roberts, Alphaeus Green Jr., Keith Carradine and Elisabeth Moss.

Screenplay by David Lowery.

Directed by David Lowery.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13.

“An old guy, with a gun. It’s kind of a funny story.”

This is how the lead character is described in a low-key, down-home manner by a police chief in this sweet and charming film.

As noted in the introductory chyron to the film, The Old Man and the Gun is the “mostly true” story of Forrest Turner, a gentleman bank robber who hit dozens of banks across the United States over the years, continuing well into his seventies. He was arrested (and escaped from prison) multiple times.

He didn’t really need the money – he lived rather modestly and most of his ill-gotten gains just ended up hidden under a floorboard in his little house. He wasn’t in it for the thrills – he went out of his way to avoid violence and make the situation as simple as possible for everyone involved.

It was just what he did.

Several months ago, Robert Redford announced that this simple tale would be a good way to go out and would be his last performance on film. (He would still work as a director, and a producer, and be intimately involved in his Sundance Film Festival.)

However, just like the character he plays here, more recently Redford has been backtracking a bit, saying never say never, and it is not exactly an official retirement from acting. He thinks it is best not to tell people when he is retiring, just sort of fade away. And if an interesting script or character were to show up, who knows?

He would probably just do what he does.

However, if this sweet and charming character drama turns out to be Redford’s last stand before the cameras, he will be going out on a high.

This quirky little slice of life is helmed by writer/director David Lowery (of A Ghost Story and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints fame, not to be confused with the Cracker/Camper van Beethoven singer/songwriter of the same name).

Set in the small cities, towns and dusty backroads of early 80s America, The Old Man and the Gun has an unhurried, quiet allure. It runs on two parallel tracks. One of these shows the old guy living a double life, doing his little robberies (both alone and with his two partners) while taking a chance on a late-in-life romance with a local widow named Jewel (Sissy Spacek). The other track has a quiet and slightly intense – but in a good way – police detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) who realizes that a local bank robbery done by a charming old guy is just one of a nationwide spree of crimes.

However, this isn’t a crime film, not really. It’s more a sweet and gentle parable of life, love and work.

Even the cop, though he hates that a series of crimes has been committed without justice, does not really begrudge the old man his eccentric ways. In fact, the one time the two talk in person – in a diner bathroom – you can see that the men grudgingly respect and appreciate each other.

Redford, Spacek and Affleck are just a few of the terrific actors on hand. Tom Waits, as one of Turner’s slightly cantankerous partners in crime, steals nearly every scene he is in. Danny Glover, as the quiet third partner, sort of fades into the background amongst his two charismatic co-conspirators. Tika Sumpter is charming as Hunt’s supportive wife. Elisabeth Moss also has a nice cameo as the daughter that Turner never met who outs her long-lost father’s identity to the cop.

For what is essentially a crime story, there is very little in the way of “action” sequences in The Old Man and the Gun. Most of the robberies are understated, though eventually there is a car chase. But, like I said earlier, The Old Man and the Gun is more about life and relationships. It’s a small, subtle film, but one with a good heart and some wonderful performances.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: October 12, 2018.

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