One might suppose that a character-driven drama with comic overtones like "The Old Man and the Gun" released on Halloween week might seem the antithesis of the usual frightmare fare. But, when you think about it, the movie's premise ...
One might suppose that a character-driven drama with comic overtones like "The Old Man and the Gun" released on Halloween week might seem the antithesis of the usual frightmare fare. But, when you think about it, the movie's premise — that of an elderly man still pursuing his avocation as an armed bank robber — targets one of the greatest fears of our time: namely, growing old.
Robert Redford, 82, plays the geezer with the charm and wit we've come to expect. It is a role he has vowed will be his last, opting to retire from acting before the glint in his eye that stole the hearts of audiences for decades isn't permanently stolen by the years.
Redford plays Forrest Tucker, a real-life career criminal who died in prison in 2014. Tucker's life was as colorful as any depicted on the silver screen, having knocked over banks and various businesses, amassing millions, but losing it all by getting caught numerous times.
But, his most notorious reputation was earned as an escape artist. His exploits, particularly his self-release from San Quentin at age 70, earned him the respect of criminals, law enforcement officers, and journalists, such as David Grann upon whose New Yorker article this screenplay is based.
But, as a title card cheekily reminds us, this is a mostly true story because writer-director David Lowery has two missions here: One is to wind a comic tale of a rascally old man who keeps the lilt in his step by committing audacious crimes, a lovable old coot who can still flatter a pretty elder horse ranch owner played by Sissy Spacek. The other is to give Redford his swan song.
About the latter, Lowery has the star's 50-year career upon which to draw for images showing the lead character as a handsome young man. It is both practical from a filmmaking viewpoint, but also a cheat because the audience for the movie has likely seen "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid," "Barefoot in the Park," "The Horse Whisperer," and "Jeremiah Johnson," so they know all too well the evolution of his looks. And, they also are familiar with his legendary vitality, which sadly in this movie has dramatically diminished.
In the movie, the long arm of the law is represented by a slightly long-haired, side-burned cop (the movie is generally set in the early 1980s) played by Casey Affleck. He is married to an African American woman with whom he has two kids. This cop, John Hunt, begins investigating one of Forrest's robberies and gradually becomes obsessed with catching him after researching his storied career.
Actually, Forrest doesn't work alone. He has a couple of old buddies, Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), who help him scope out potential targets. As their string of robberies becomes well-known, they are saddled with the lame moniker, "The Over-the-Hill Gang," after a popular movie of the time.
The movie is entertaining for all of the stated reasons, but also a tad disappointing for the same. We obviously can't roll back the clock, but at least for aging movie stars there are marvelous clips.
Tempo grade: B+
"The Old Man and the Gun" is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
It is screening daily starting Friday (Oct. 26) at the Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Canon Road. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
I Am Not a Witch
MPAA rating: Not rated
Taos Community Auditorium
Following a banal incident in her local village, 8-year old girl Shula is accused of witchcraft. After a short trial she is found guilty, taken into state custody and exiled to a witch camp.
At the camp she takes part in an initiation ceremony where she is shown the rules surrounding her new life as a witch. Like the other residents, Shula is tied to a ribbon that is attached to a coil that perches on a large truck. She is told that should she ever cut the ribbon, she'll be cursed and transformed into a goat.
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 28) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Oct. 29-31) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.
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