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Academy Awards Watch – The Old Man And The Gun Review: Redford’s Parting Shot at Cinematic Glory

 

The Old Man & The Gun is the mostly true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), an elderly gentleman who is addicted to robbing banks. After a series of audacious escapes from various prisons, Tucker always finds himself returning to his one true love—the thrill of a heist. Sometimes alone, sometimes with his aptly named Over the Hill Gang, Tucker is always looking for the next score. During this particular spree, however, he finds young detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) hot on his tail, and himself falling for Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a woman Tucker happened to cross paths with.

What works in The Old Man & The Gun is Robert Redford, and frankly, that’s all that matters to make the film a resounding success. Without question, writer/director David Lowery has done an excellent job assembling a strong script and robust material to give Tucker a fascinating and true-to-life narrative arc, but it is Redford’s anchoring performance that gives The Old Man & The Gun a wonderful level of engagement and entertainment.

RELATED: Robert Redford Retires From Acting

If this is, as he has stated, Redford’s swan song before retirement, it is a lovely ballad. His portrayal of Tucker exudes the charm and charisma most often associated with Redford—he could very easily be a relative of the actor’s other scoundrel heroes such as the Sundance Kid or John “Kelly” Hooker (The Sting). Whether incidental or not, one might even be able to loosely map Tucker’s adventures to Redford’s career: Tucker and Redford each found a passion for a skill at a young age and turned it into a career against all odds; Tucker’s escapes from prison mimic Redford’s ability to break out in nearly every role he had, no matter how different or difficult they were; and with The Old Man & The Gun, Redford’s acknowledgement of knowing what he’ll likely be most remembered for, and giving audiences one last performance in the type of character he made famous.

While The Old Man & The Gun boasts a fantastic turn by Redford, it is possible that the chief “complaint” will be audiences craving more. While likely intentional, Lowery keeps the film at a brisk 93 minutes. The pacing is thematically appropriate to Tucker’s life—quick and to the point. The Old Man & The Gun knows exactly how to present the material, the robberies, the relationships, and the flashbacks in great balance as to both give watchers a complete picture while maintaining the excitement of the thefts. Even with that context, some may be wishing (perhaps somewhat selfishly) for more about Tucker’s life or giving Redford a few extra on-screen challenging dramatic quandaries. Hopefully, these criticisms are merely feigning real emotions—a wish for just a few more minutes of performance fueled by our sadness at Redford’s cinematic departure, and corresponding gratitude for every second of hard work he gave.

The Old Man & The Gun is a great movie, thanks to Robert Redford. Sure, another talent may have been able to pull off the role, but the match between performer and plot elevates the entire tale into a great family film.

Recommended if you enjoyed: The Sting, Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid, Catch Me If You Can

FINAL GRADE: A

Possible Academy Award Nominations:

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: Robert Redford

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