THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: David Lowery
Screenwriter: David Lowery, based on David Grann’s New Yorker magazine article
Cast: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Isiah Whitlock Jr., John David Washington, Tom Waits, Sissy Spacek, Elisabeth Moss
Screened at: Fox, NYC, 9/27/18
Opens: September 28, 2018
In the 1993 movie “Indecent Proposal,” a gentleman offers a million dollars to a married woman if she would have sex with him. This sounds like a no-brainer. One night of sex and the couple played by Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson would be set for life. Not even the hottest escort service could begin to match that indecent, albeit (to me) obvious grab. The guy with the money is played by Robert Redford, and the joke that went around is this:
Joyce: “Abby, would you have sex with Robert Redford for a million dollars?”
Abby: “Sure, but you’ll have to give me time to raise the money.”
Redford, one of the handsomest men ever to grace the movie screen, was then 57 years old looking like 40, so it’s no wonder such a dialogue could seem realistic. Now at 82, but in “The Old Man and the Gun” playing someone in his sixties (quite credibly), he sports face that had never tried the miracle of Botox though presumably the thick, avy, blond hair was once someone else’s. In any case he looks great, and as Forrest Tucker he is so smooth and civil, that I think he could still have women saving up to get the million dollars if he made such a proposal to them today.
Forrest Tucker is a true character. The full story which David Lowery adapted from David Grann’s New Yorker magazine can be found here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/01/27/the-old-man-and-the-gun
It’s a great story, one you might read and be warned: you will likely want to subscribe to the New Yorker, the best magazine in your local kiosk. The tale recount the many times he escaped from prison: 16. It’s a manual to prisoners throughout the land on how they can do the same, and will make the most hardened convict wish to subscribe to the magazine.
In his farewell appearance—Redford retired last month but maybe we can organize demonstrations to change his mind—he takes on the role of this bank robber who sticks up banks not because he desperately needs money but because he’d rather live than make a living. With two cronies, Teddy Green (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), the partners serving as lookouts and getaway drivers, Tucker would enter a bank with the flimsiest of disguises—a thick mustache, a broad hat, nothing more except that he charms his victims who are almost happy to give him the bills—and by just showing a gun, he gets managers across five states to order tellers to fill Tucker’s brief case to the brim.
Not only do the bank people fall for him. So does Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), married to Maureen (Tika Sumpter) with two kids. His passion to track the man down and put him behind bars is secondary to any wish for a promotion: he is enamored with this outlier of a bandit who gets what he wants with his savoir faire and probably without even showing the gun. Chased by police cars, Tucker gets out of his car to help Jewel (Sissy Spacek), whom he meets cute while looking to repair her overheated car. (He uses the ploy to get the police cars to pass him by in a high-speed chase.) The movie’s center, in fact, is his chemistry with the woman in one of those rare films that have nothing to do with sex and everything to do with how the affection of two older people can be so intense that no hanky-panky is necessary. When Jewel finds out what her beau does for a living—no, make that what he does for a life—she disapproves, but she is not about to be judgmental.
This is the kind of policier that uses bank robbery almost as a MacGuffin. The real aim is to turn a bank robbery drama into the opposite of “Bonnie and Clyde” or the intense French thriller “Mesrine” and make it a story about a relationship between an older man and woman. It’s no wonder that it has been distributed by Fox Searchlight, the art studio under the Fox label, as many of us would probably pass this sort of drama by as just too sleepy. That’s too bad, because of all the movies you’ll see this year, the vast majority dealing with Millennials and folks around that age area, you’re not likely to find a couple with chemistry nearly as authentic and powerful as that between two first-class performers, Redford and Spacek.
93 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B
Overall – B+