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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Cinema Review: The Old Man and the Gun

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When it comes to ageing gracefully, Robert Redford (82) and Sissy Spacek (69) set the bar pretty high. Redford now has a face as weathered as the Utah terrain that he rode across as Sundance, yet still there remains a glint in the eye, while Spacek, it seems, will forever carry within her the girly ingénue of Badlands (1973). Teamed up here, they are Forrest Tucker, a mild-mannered but obsessive bank robber and jail escapologist, and Jewel, a widow living a quiet life with her three horses on a spread in Texas. As a retrospective of an old crook’s career (it is based on Tucker’s memoir), there is more than just a fleeting sense that the film is also paying homage to Redford, an icon of the industry, especially when detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) views a collage of photographs of the handsome outlaw from his earliest days to the present (1981), and in the throwaway line that argues against retirement with ‘when you find something you love’ [doing]. The tone is low key and the pace gentle, but director David Lowery nevertheless insinuates an unease into the narrative, making you worry about how it might all end for Tucker. When his jaded accomplices (Danny Glover and Tom Waits) indicate that they have had enough of the caper, Tucker’s unwillingness – or inability – to draw the curtain on his activities give further cause for concern about where the story might be headed. The best moments are when Redford and Spacek are together – their rapport is effortless – but Affleck is also impressive as the cop on his trail. Balancing the demands of home and the job, beer drinking, hang-dog Hunt unwinds by dancing in the kitchen with his wife (Tika Sumpter) to the Kinks’ Lola and is teased by the object of his pursuit when Tucker brazenly confronts him in the men’s room of a diner. A reflective, forgiving movie, it is free of rancour and violence, and the details of Tucker’s real-life exploits are fascinating.

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