James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
THE OLD MAN & THE GUN
The heyday of Robert Redford was a bit before my time, but his presence looms large as a movie star who has always been a patron of independent cinema. So, it comes as no surprise he chose Texas based indie filmmaker David Lowery (A GHOST STORY) to send him off in his “final role.” There’s no denying the performances he has brought to the screen, from JEREMIAH JOHNSON, to ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN and as an Academy Award-winning director for ORDINARY PEOPLE. He’s a multi-faceted creator who brings the audience into his orbit each and every performance by evoking a feeling of warmth and comfort rather than going for the big performance.
This brings us to the breezy crime caper THE OLD MAN & THE GUN. It’s an homage to Redford’s career, tapping into the essence of his aforementioned roles and a celebration of vintage American cinema, while feeling very much a film for 2018.
Forrest Tucker (Redford) is a older fella who waltzes into a Bellmead Texas bank with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. He’s an unassuming gentleman who remarkably controls every (potentially violent) situation with manners and grace. For Forrest Tucker, it’s not about the wealth that crime brings, it’s about the thrill of the chase. Along with two other members of “The Over The Hill Gang,” Waller (Tom Waits) and Teddy (Danny Glover), they hit dozens of banks stockpiling dollars without ever causing much of a fuss with the general public. (Think of that intense fire fight in the middle of Michael Mann’s HEAT, but the complete opposite.)
The Gang attracts the attention of Dallas detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who is fed up with his job as he approaches 40. He has a great family life and a loving wife (Tika Sumpter, who will be a major star one day), but somehow Forrest’s tirade through Texas has given Hunt a purpose in life, as he “hunts down” this geriatric crew to restore order to small town life.
Lowery’s film is light on its feet and is crisper than a fresh $100 bill. His filmmaking sensibilities create an effortless string of storylines that coalesce with a wink and an ironic punch. There’s something to be said for a filmmaker who continues to make easygoing films that carry weight. Lowery not only is putting Dallas on the map as a premier place for filmmakers to create, but he’s one of the most celebrated independent filmmakers working in the game today.
THE OLD MAN & THE GUN tells a story about a man looking back on his legacy, but in its mind’s eye, the film is about a romance a few years too late. One morning after a string of robberies and a car chase, Forrest comes across a woman named Jewell (Sissy Spacek), who has broken down on the side of the road. They strike up a convo with some of that “old timey” banter and spark up a connection. For this seasoned duo, their connection isn’t about forever, or the desire for one last passionate love, it’s about enjoying the now while reflecting on the past. Redford and Spacek are charming as they ever have been in their scenes together.
And as for Mr. Affleck, he constantly plays the fool to the Over The Hill Gang’s antics. He’s determined, yet is always three-steps behind. Hunt is such a noble character and Affleck plays him with an everyman quality that feels close to home.
Lowrey’s THE OLD MAN & THE GUN is a rare bird of a film that has a director operating in the past, present and future. It’s a look back on a legendary star, a timely film for modern audiences and a tease on what is to come for Lowrey’s bold yet reserved style of movie making. Some may call THE OLD MAN & THE GUN a slight piece of filmmaking, but I call it wondrous.
THE OLD MAN & THE GUN is now playing in select theaters, expands in the weeks following.