Anyone who has ever had to work with money as a cashier or bank teller has at least fantasized about what they would do if they were robbed. However, they likely never imagined the robber would be an elderly man with a kind smile and calm demeanor. The Old Man & The Gun (2018) is the new film directed by David Lowery (A Ghost Story) that tells another mostly true story starring Robert Redford, who plays Forrest Tucker as he leads a bank robbery spree across the country in 1981.
The Old Man & The Gun was a great experience
The film opens with Forrest robbing a bank in the most polite, non-violent bank robbery probably ever put to film. He walks out wearing his hat, mustache, and blue suit with a hearing aid in his ear as he casually gets in his car and drives away. A chase ensues, but his car tucks away behind a garage. The camera rotates around the road where we see two kids painting a fence…but then we hear car doors opening and closing, a new engine roaring to life, and see a different color car pull out, driven by Forrest. It’s a compelling setup for what will be an even more compelling film.
The best part of that opening chase comes when Forrest casually pulls off the road to assist a woman working on her broken down truck on the side of the road. Jewel (Sissy Spacek) is instantly charmed by Forrest, and he offers to take her into town to get a tow truck. That simple act leads to a piece of pie and coffee at a diner that will become a recurring set for this film.
Redford is outstanding in this film. The charm you’ll remember from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is on display in this performance. In many ways, this film feels like a spiritual sequel to that classic western. It’s like Sundance was rescued from that final freeze frame, and went into hiding until he emerged at this Austin bank. Spacek also gives a great performance, and the bond the two characters form is as charming as the two actors.
The other highlight of the film is Casey Affleck. Not to take away from solid performances from Danny Glover and Tom Waits, but Affleck is alive in this movie. Well, not at first actually…not to imply that Lowery will turn him into a ghost again, but rather that Affleck’s character is clearly not thrilled with his choice to be a detective. While his character John Hunt’s home life with his wife and kids seems strong, Hunt has clearly become disillusioned with his career. However, during one of Forrest’s bank robberies, John Hunt is in line waiting to make a withdrawal and is completely oblivious to the robbery, as is everyone else in the bank but the one bank manager. It’s only after the robbery is over that John takes action, but it’s only when he is armed with the tale of the considerate, elderly robbery that he starts to find joy in what he does again.
They say “do what you love”, and that is ultimately the theme that Lowery plays with throughout the film. Right before the bank robbery that John will be a witness to, he tells his young son to just do what you want, talking about sports in some capacity. His son asks him if he is happy with his job, which warrants no response from the bitter detective. There will come a moment in the film where John seems to be at his most happy, and the joy that is in Affleck’s eyes serves to remind how talented he can be.
Lowery’s new film is really great. It’s a compelling story of a robber with a sheer love of what he does to “make a living”, and how that rubs off on those he affects. Redford makes you love the “bad guy” with his dynamic performance, and Affleck still makes you root for the cops to catch him. Spacek earns your empathy, and you just hope she doesn’t get hurt by either party. Lowery presents it all with strong visuals and a vintage look that reminds of old news footage from the 80s. In the end, The Old Man & The Gun earns the Must See rating.