The Old Man & the Gun
Written and Directed by David Lowery
Based on ‘The Old Man and the Gun’ by David Grann
Starring Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits, Sissy Spacek
There are two thoughts that flashed across my mind as David Lowery’s stunning tone poem, “The Old Man & the Gun” unfolded in front of me: the first was Billy Ocean’s song, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going,” where the situation is gets tough, strong people will become engaged.
This, unrequitedly applied to Robert Redford’s Forrest Tucker, a thief who steals money with a smile and a gun.
The second thought was that of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” Perhaps this is an obvious give, but when put into the context of Casey Affleck’s Detective John Hurt, it begins to make a bit of sense. No, I’m not giving anything away by offering this thought; but it should give you some food for thought as you watch the two characters work their way through David Lowery’s 93 – minute script.
Based on a New Yorker article, “The Old Man and the Gun” by David Grann, Lowery takes a rather simple, yet elegant idea of a thief in the prime of his life and creates a cat and mouse game, as Detective Hurt tries to apprehend our loveable hero.
Set in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Forrest and his crew, Teddy Green (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits) work across the panhandle of Texas and further east. They never hurt anyone and Forrest always has an escape plan. Though Glover and Waits are used in a limited fashion, their screen presence anchors Redford’s nice – guy shtick. The fact that he is elderly and congenial allows him to blend into any situation, and that’s how he meets Sissy Spacek’s Jewel.
Once they meet, there is an ongoing gag where Forrest has wish list of items he wants to accomplish before he dies, though he does not expressly call it a “bucket list.” One of those items is to ride a horse, which Jewel has on her ranch. And, even though he confesses to her what he does for a living, she doesn’t initially believe him. That’s a part of the charm between the two actors and their characters: they don’t really care what each other has done, they only know that they are meant to be together.
Lowery uses the same approach with Detective Hurt and his wife, Maureen (Tika Sumpter). He is a family man and hasn’t had a major case in quite some time when he is assigned to investigate the thefts. As his investigation progresses, Lowery peppers in key pieces of Robert Redford’s screen history using older photos and film clips to carry the story forward. It was an ingenious way of paying homage to his past characters while carrying on the legacy of Forrest Tucker.
A lyrical quality to the performances is carried in the film’s score and music selections. Daniel Hart’s jazzy score is reminiscent of Dizzy Gillespie: upbeat, happy-go-lucky and free-spirited. It represents the essence of his character and his journey. Joe Anderson’s cinematography takes the audience back to the late 1970’s, early 1980’s with the use of grain and the color schemes: cool shades of blues and greys, but he also emphasizes the exterior sequences at the farm with warmer colors. It’s a deft blend that reflects the time the film was set in along with the free-spirited nature that is Forrest Tucker.
David Lowery has a home run on his hands that audiences, young and old should appreciate and if this is Mr. Redford’s final performance, he is getting out when the going’s good.
3.75 out of 4 stars