By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
There’s no doubt Robert Redford is a legend in the world of film, from is iconic acting roles across the decades to his stewardship of the Sundance Film Festival, now one of the most influential forums for independent filmmakers in the industry.
Thank you, Sundance, for The Greasy Strangler.
Robert Redford stars as Forrest Tucker, a 70 year old bank robber and prison escape artist who hasn’t let his age dull his lust for life and 4-digit bank robberies. Sissy Spacek plays the woman who gets him at least considering a different path, and Casey Affleck plays the police officer who begrudgingly respects yet remains hellbent on catching him.
The Old Man & the Gun may be seem to be a paean to a very particular outlaw whose life story is no doubt an incredible one (the prison escape montage alone is a barn-burner), but I feel confident in saying that without its star the film would not exist. That’s because David Lowery instead was most interested in delivering an elegy to Redford (and Spacek! and Glover and Waits!) and a particular period of moviemaking and a particular kind of star that the sun is setting on.
Quick, name either the Newman or the Redford of this generation.
This homage isn’t just a matter of casting or content, but rather Lowery and his DP Joe Anderson employ period-appropriate and utterly gorgeous film grain and magic hour lighting to evoke the 70s classics it could almost be mistaken for. There’s a scene where a serape-clad Redford looks on as police cars approach while seated on horseback as the sun rises over the dewy fields that is as sad and pretty as anything either from that era or this one.
Don’t mistake me, The Old Man & the Gun isn’t all bittersweet nostalgia. The film possesses an infectious winking sense of fun and energy (I could listen to Tom Waits tell stories about why he hates Christmas for days), and a relaxed tone perhaps best exemplified by Casey Affleck’s laid back to the point of catatonic performance, which admittedly pays off nicely in his first, crackerjack interaction with Redford.
There’s some frankly surprisingly dodgy makeup/wig/younger casting choices to flash us back to a younger Redford- I understand the necessity, but these scenes are undoubtedly most effective when they just use old footage.
The film is also very, to the point of too, laid back in stretches- the film feels longer than its 90 minutes.
The Old Man & the Gun is a fitting tribute to an aging, legendary cinematic outlaw masquerading as the story of another one.
The Old Man & the Gun (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime somebody rings a call bell
Take a Drink: whenever somebody robs or steals something
Take a Drink: for every reference or callback to Robert Redford’s career
Take a Drink: for every visit to the diner
Do a Shot: when Casey Affleck gives as good as he gets