Twi­light rob­bery…

Total Film - - Contents -

Robert Red­ford’s act­ing swan­song is a de­light.

At the start of the year, Daniel Day-Lewis ap­par­ently bid act­ing good­bye with a riv­et­ing per­for­mance as fas­tid­i­ous fash­ion­ista Reynolds Wood­cock in Phan­tom Thread. Now, to close out 2018, Robert Red­ford has in­ti­mated that he’s ready to ride off into the sun­set on the back of his im­pos­si­bly charis­matic turn as true-life bank rob­ber For­rest Tucker in The Old Man & The Gun.

Based on David Grann’s 2003 New Yorker ar­ti­cle, writer/di­rec­tor David Low­ery’s splen­didly crafted dra­matic thriller is an ode to the New Hol­ly­wood of the ’60s and ’70s – the era that made Red­ford a star. It even weaves in footage from the oc­to­ge­nar­ian ac­tor’s old movies, back when he was a kid and the sun danced in his hair. That such a tech­nique, mar­ried to de­sat­u­rated 16mm im­ages, doesn’t make The Old Man & The Gun a fos­sil trapped in am­ber is tes­ta­ment to its breezy style and ebul­lient emo­tions. Nei­ther too clever for its own good nor sim­ply a nos­tal­gia-trip pas­tiche aimed only at chin-strum­ming cinephiles, it is, in a word, fun. And so damn charm­ing it makes your heart twin­kle like Red­ford’s eyes.

We pick up the ac­tion in 1981, as 76-year-old ca­reer-crim Tucker has just busted out of San Quentin

– his 16th suc­cess­ful prison break – and is mo­sey­ing into a bank armed with an un­loaded pis­tol, an aw-shucks grin and a dev­as­tat­ing wink. Min­utes later, flee­ing a squad of wail­ing cop cars, he pulls over to as­sist a woman hav­ing en­gine trou­ble. It’s a ruse, and the cops duly screech past. But an in­stant con­nec­tion flick­ers be­tween Tucker and his un­wit­ting de­coy.

Heat vi­sion

She is Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a horse trainer and a widow. He tells her, over cof­fee, that he is in sales, and then thinks bet­ter of it and writes the truth on a slip of pa­per. She reads it, doesn’t quite be­lieve it, mis­tak­ing it as part of their flir­ta­tion. Dur­ing the re­main­der of the movie they will meet sev­eral times more, and their chem­istry pops like corn. Mean­while, an­other re­la­tion­ship de­vel­ops be­tween Tucker and the ob­ses­sive Texas ’tec on his trail, John Hunt (Casey Af­fleck). These are two guys ad­dicted to what they do, who come to ad­mire one an­other, who even share a bond of af­fec­tion. You might say they are laid-back, ami­able, soul­ful ver­sions of De Niro’s Neil Mc­Cauley and Pa­cino’s Vin­cent Hanna in Heat, and like­wise they en­joy a mid-movie meet sure to prickle view­ers’ skin.

There the com­par­isons end. No run­ning street bat­tles with boom­ing au­to­matic weapons here; just a ge­nial gen­tle­man who am­bles up to a suc­ces­sion of bank tell­ers, asks to be di­rected to the man­ager, and then sug­gests, with a sunny smile, they load up a bag. It’s how the Sun­dance Kid might have spent his twi­light


years had he not been punc­tured by a hail of bul­lets in Bo­livia.

The van­ity-free Red­ford is mag­nif­i­cent, al­low­ing DoP Joe An­der­son to zoom in on ev­ery crag and crevice of his face in the knowl­edge that Fa­ther Time is pow­er­less to dim his sparkling blue eyes, his star wattage. Red­ford’s per­for­mance cel­e­brates the rene­gade spirit even as Low­ery cel­e­brates an era of Amer­i­can movies as golden as his star’s bar­net, and, of course, that star him­self.

The ten­der­ness is there in the tac­til­ity of the film stock, in Daniel Hart’s jazzy score, in the pe­ri­o­dap­pro­pri­ate tunes (The Kinks, Si­mon & Gar­funkel)… to­gether they com­prise a po­etic love let­ter that draws on the wider his­tory men­tioned above but also per­sonal bonds: Low­ery’s ele­giac crime movie Ain’t Them Bod­ies Saints broke out at Red­ford’s Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val, and the star lent all of his grace and charm to a role in Low­ery’s stu­dio de­but, Pete’s Dragon.


Cru­cially, how­ever, the love-in is paused long enough for Low­ery to of­fer a glimpse of the darker side of Tucker’s com­pul­sion – we’re in­tro­duced, briefly, to the wounded daugh­ter (Elis­a­beth Moss) that he doesn’t even know he has.

Also at the top of her con­sid­er­able game is Spacek, who like­wise brings bag­gage. Jewel is older and wiser, but bears traces of Bad­lands’ Holly, feel­ing a fris­son of ex­cite­ment at the thought of Tucker pulling heists. She is mes­meris­ing. But make no mis­take: this is Red­ford’s (last pic­ture) show, and it serves a glo­ri­ous good­bye.

We can only hope that he changes his mind and, like Tucker, can’t stop do­ing the thing he loves. Jamie Gra­ham


The re­tir­ing Red­ford will surely be Os­car-nom­i­nated for his daz­zling dis­play in a crime movie of gor­geous style and gen­er­ous spirit.

Red­ford’s gag­ging to get Glover to pull out his “too old…” line.

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