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The Old Man & the Gun (2018)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Crime, Drama | 19 October 2018 (USA)
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Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker and his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public.

Director:

David Lowery

Writers:

David Lowery, David Grann (based on the New Yorker article by)
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Popularity
36 ( 6)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Redford ... Forrest Tucker
Sissy Spacek ... Jewel
Casey Affleck ... John Hunt
Danny Glover ... Teddy
Tom Waits ... Waller
Tika Sumpter ... Maureen Hunt
Ari Elizabeth Johnson ... Abilene
Teagan Johnson ... Tyler
Gene Jones ... Mr. Owens
John David Washington ... LT. Kelley
Barlow Jacobs ... Offerman
Augustine Frizzell ... Sandra
Jennifer Joplin ... Martha
Lisa DeRoberts ... Helen the Teller
Carter Bratton Carter Bratton ... Local News Anchor
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Storyline

Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), from his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. Wrapped up in the pursuit are detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who becomes captivated with Forrest's commitment to his craft, and a woman (Sissy Spacek), who loves him in spite of his chosen profession. Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

It's not about making a living. It's about living. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 October 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Old Man & the Gun See more »

Filming Locations:

Bethel, Ohio, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$142,131, 30 September 2018, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$11,262,920, 17 January 2019
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

John David Washington & Isiah Whitlock Jr. previously appeared together as Southern police officers in BlacKkKlansman (2018). See more »

Goofs

During the ride with Spacek after picking her up from her broken truck, the door lock is in the locked position, then unlocked, then locked, and is unlocked every time we see her at the end of that driving scene. See more »

Quotes

Forrest Tucker: Let's take this place. Say it was a bank and say that counter up there was really a tellers window and you just walk in, look calm and so you just walk up, look her in the eye and you say 'ma'am, this is a robbery' and you show her the gun, like this
[makes a gun with his hand]
Forrest Tucker: and you say 'I wouldn't want you to get hurt cause I like you, I like you a lot, so don't go breakin my heart now, ok'
See more »

Crazy Credits

Jade Healy is credited as Wallpaper Whisperer! See more »

Connections

Features Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
A well-made, old-fashioned yarn, but the laid-back ballad-like tone will be too insubstantial for some
27 December 2018 | by BertautSee all my reviews

Of all the young American writer/directors to break through in the last few years, for me, Jeff Nichols and David Lowery stand tall; in particular, Nichols's Take Shelter (2011), and Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013) and the existential masterpiece that was A Ghost Story (2017). Both filmmakers are five-for-five thus far, with even Lowery's mainstream Disney remake Pete's Dragon (2016) managing to impress in all sorts of ways I wasn't expecting. Apart from being enjoyable in its own right, it also showed us that Lowery is as comfortable making personal small-scale character dramas as he is big-budget special effects blockbusters. With The Old Man & the Gun, he stands somewhere between - it's not as intimate as St. Nick (2009), Ain't Them Bodies Saints, or A Ghost Story, but neither is it as mainstream as Pete's Dragon. Originally touted as Robert Redford's final performance, although he has walked that claim back somewhat, The Old Man & the Gun is a laid-back ballad-like elegy to both the character Redford is playing and to Redford himself. Filmed in the style of a 1970's indie, Old Man is so tied to Redford as a performer as to be virtually self-referential. In short, if you're not a fan of the actor, you will get absolutely nothing from this film.

Telling the "mostly true" story of Forrest Tucker, Lowery's script is based primarily on David Grann's 2003 New Yorker article of the same name. By the time of the article, the 83-year-old Tucker, who had been robbing banks since his early 20s, had amassed at least 80 successful jobs and escaped from prison 18 times. Usually described by the tellers from whom he stole as "gentlemanly" and "charming", his M.O. never changed - he would walk into a bank and ask if he could open an account. When asked what kind, he would pull back his coat, showing his gun (which was often unloaded, and which he never fired), assure the teller that he didn't want any trouble, and quietly talk them through the process of emptying their till. He would then wish them the best, tell them they'd done well, and walk out. The story takes place in 1981, when Tucker was 61 (although in the film, he's 76), and had recently escaped from San Quentin. Meeting Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a widow, after pulling off a job, they strike up a tentative romance. Meanwhile, he is pursued by Det. John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who is starting to respect him more and more.

The first thing you'll notice about Old Man is its pace, which is measured, to say the least. Ostensibly, this is a heist film, but the crime narrative is very much secondary to tone and character beats. Lowery is relatively uninterested in excitement, suspense, plot twists, or any of the usual generic tropes. Instead, approaching the material casually, he focuses on a year of Tucker's life. You learn pretty quickly, however, what kind of film this will be. Opening with Tucker in mid-robbery, instead of concentrating on his escape, Lowery instead cuts from the robbery to Tucker meeting Jewel, and from that, to a lengthy dialogue scene in a diner as Tucker and Jewel get to know one another. Just as you expect important plot details and character-illustrative moments to be front and centre in a bombastic opening salvo, Lowery gives us two people sitting in a diner talking to one another. And this establishes the tone for the rest of the film, which is as mellow as a film can be; rather than a shot of absinthe, it's a fine Irish malt drunk at a fireplace.

Indeed, even within this structure, there's not a huge amount of character development, nor is there much of a dramatic arc. And that's not a criticism. Rather, the meditative, quasi-somnolent pace is very much one of the film's charms. To give you an example, about three-quarters of the way through, there's a scene where Jewel fills a kettle as she stares out the window. We are literally watching her thinking. Then she puts the kettle on the stove and thinks some more. The scene lasts a couple of minutes, and is reminiscent of Rooney Mara's four-minute pie-eating scene in A Ghost Story, which a lot of people disliked, but which I thought was very much the essence of the film rendered in pure visual form. Here, the kettle scene doesn't forward the narrative one iota. However, it's a key scene for the character. The heist scenes are very much the background noise against which the more interesting character beats happen.

However, for all that, Lowery's primary goal is to create an ode to an icon, and that icon is Robert Redford. Tucker's story is a vehicle which Lowery uses to celebrate Redford; the character is always there, but he exists behind the actor, rather than the other way around. The audience is never allowed to forget that this is Robert Redford on screen, to the point where the performance is self-referential. Indeed, during the escape montage, there's even a clip of Redford from another film, The Chase (1966). There's an obvious correlation between Tucker and Redford of which Lowery wants the audience to be very aware - they are both elderly, and still doing what they do best, reluctant to stop. We can never look past the fact that Tucker is played by Redford, and for the most part, Redford is playing Redford, with the film existing in large part only because it explicitly leans on his back catalogue and real-life legacy. Essentially, the whole thing is an extended metatextual allegory for Redford's own impending retirement, not to mention his reluctance to let go.

As one would expect from Lowery, aesthetically, the film is fascinating. Lowery is very unusual in the sense that, thus far, he has never used the same cinematographer twice. Here, he uses Joe Anderson, whose cinematography is extremely unique, with the celluloid having a gritty, grainy quality, almost as if it were an amateur project. This is because Lowery shot on Super 16, doing so because he wanted it to look like it had been made in the period in which it was set. This is in direct contrast to, say, how Michael Mann shot Public Enemies (2009), with the use of fast, seemingly anachronistic, digital photography creating a sense that what was happening on screen wasn't necessarily taking place in the past, but could easily have been taking place right now. Lowery, in contrast, tries to suture the viewer into the past milieu.

Another important aesthetic point is how much Lowery has obviously been influenced by Mann, to whom there are several homages - the diner scene recalls a similarly shot scene between James Caan and Tuesday Weld in Thief (1981); the scene in the toilet where Hunt approaches Tucker is an obvious nod to Al Pacino confronting Robert De Niro in Heat (1995); and the scene of Tucker gaining inspiration whilst sitting in a cinema recalls a scene where Dillinger (Johnny Depp) does the same thing in Public Enemies. In relation to this scene, the movie Tucker is watching is Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), a film depicting the openness and freedom of the American highway.

In terms of problems, there are a few. For many, the film will depend far too much on Redford, specifically the self-referential allusions to his career and legacy. If you're not a fan of his, you will get zero from this, absolutely nothing. Similarly, if you aren't familiar with at least some of his previous work, and his status in Hollywood, the whole thing will probably seem inconsequential. Another problem I have concerns Affleck, who plays himself in every single movie. There is virtually nothing to distinguish Hunt from Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) or Les Chandler from Manchester by the Sea (2016), or either of his performances in previous Lowery films. Every performance he gives, he plays a character with the weight of the world on his shoulders, shuffling around, speaking in a low-key hang-dog voice, reluctant to make eye contact, shifting on his feet.

Lowery also has a strange habit of introducing themes which seem to be setting something up, only to completely abandon them without any kind of engagement. This is most obvious in relation to Hunt's inter-racial marriage to Maureen (Tika Sumpter) and their two mixed-race children. This is a fictional element added by Lowery, so one assumes there was some thought behind it. But this is Texas in 1981; there wouldn't have been a huge amount of mixed marriages. Yet Lowery seems to portray it as if it's the most normal thing in the world. Indeed, for the wife and children, life is fairly idyllic, with not a hint of any kind of societal disapproval. Why would you introduce a mixed-race marriage into this milieu without commenting on it. Lowery obviously has little interest in exploring the social reality of race relations in Texas in the early 1980s, which is fair enough, but if that's the case, why bother raising the issue at all?

These issues aside, however, The Old Man & the Gun is a fine film. As much about Robert Redford as it is Forrest Tucker, although that won't appeal to everyone, there is much to praise. Made in a key so low, it's practically subterranean, Lowery hinges everything on Redford's presence, and, for the most part, it works well. There's little in here to get overly excited about, but neither is there much to criticise. Yes, the film is somewhat insubstantial, and there's virtually nothing here beyond the Redford/Tucker character, but it's still beautifully made, and, honestly, there's nothing wrong with spending 93 minutes hanging out with Redford, whether he's playing Forrest Tucker or Robert Redford. Whether or not this is actually his last performance remains to be seen, but if it is, it's as fine a send-off as any Hollywood icon could hope for.


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