starring Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Sissy Spacek
written and directed by David Lowery
by Walter Chaw David Lowery follows up his enigmatic A Ghost Story with this slobbery, open-mouthed kiss to Robert Redford, in his alleged swan song to screen acting. Redford plays real-life bank robber Forrest Tucker, who, in a blue suit and stupid hat, resumes his long career of traumatizing tellers and imparting folksy aphorisms after escaping from San Quentin. Seeing this life as his calling, Tucker was oft-described as seeming "happy," and so that's the tactic Lowery and Redford take towards this material, presenting everything as this bucolic Americana bullshit of the variety the elderly and the elderly-at-heart, especially, get off on and which Redford has made his stock-in-trade in his dotage. The only thing missing is an early-bird buffet as patrons enter the theatre. Tom Waits and Danny Glover play Tucker's sometime-partners in crime and poor Sissy Spacek is enlisted as his gal Jewel ("Well, y'sure look it!") to deliver "good-natured" to the assembled. Yes, Redford, one of the most exceptional and brilliant actors in film history, is now delivering the patented Robert Duvall elderly performance: repeating phrases, smiling in a non-specific way, and patting people's hands as they talk, complete with a wired hearing aid dangling from his ear.
The danger of films as aggressively harmless as The Old Man & the Gun is that they feed into a certain base belief system about the way things are and the illusion of how good things used to be. There are hints herein that Tucker's actions are deeply traumatizing to his victims--particularly a young mother who begs for the life of her child when Tucker decides to cleverly carjack her while eluding, again, the hapless police. There's subtext ripe for mining, too, in the idea that because the robbers are elderly, no one pays much attention to them, thus allowing them to continue getting away with their adorable terror spree. What would the film have been like if the crimes they were committing were kidnapping and murder, instead? Problematically, the audience is led to feel that bank-robbery isn't much of a big deal, either, never mind the weeping teller, or the scene where a bank is robbed while John Hunt's kids are there. All of that PTSD is played as the endearing shenanigans of an American folk hero, which is, alas, par for the course for movies that think you're an idiot. The lingering impact of the film, if there is one, is how hilarious it is that old people have sex lives, so long as I don't have to watch or really even have it intimated for a second. There is not one moment of The Old Man & the Gun that owns its uncomfortable underneath; it's like sanitizing a crocodile pit for your protection. If you really needed a glad-handing film about a cheerful sociopath living his best life to tell you that old people are three-dimensional human beings, then you're the fucking sociopath.