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The Old Man & the Gun

The Old Man and the Gun
He won an Oscar for directing the 1980 film Ordinary People, but has never won an Oscar for acting, receiving only one nomination (The Sting), but Hollywood legend Robert Redford has a shot at that acting Oscar this year with his performance in The Old Man and the Gun, which makes the film seem a lot better than it really is.

Redford commands the screen in this fact-based 2018 docudrama as Forrest Tucker, a career criminal who has been in and out of jail since the age of 15 and, according to the film, has escaped from 16 different penal institutions, climaxing an escape from San Quentin at the tender age of 70. The film opens in the year 1981 where Tucker and his crew (Tom Waits, Danny Glover) surface in Texas and rob dozens of banks all over the state. Tucker was a charming and amiable man who never stopped smiling while handing teller notes demanding money or in the middle of high speed chases down four lane highways. He finds himself dogged by a small time Texas police detective named John Hunt (Oscar winner Casey Affleck)Tucker complicates his business when he begins a relationship with an effervescent widow named Jewel (Oscar winner Sissy Spacek).

Director and screenwriter David Lowery puts a lot of care and affection into the mounting of this story. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he is related to Tucker in some way because he works very hard at putting this character on a cinematic pedestal like nothing I've ever seen. It's hard to tell where facts and gloss blur for the sake of entertainment blur because there are way too many close calls in the name of this cat and mouse between Hunt and Tucker to really believe, reminding me a lot of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in Cat Me If You Can. Hunt arrives at the scene of one of Tucker's crimes and actually finds a hundred dollar bill with a personal message written to him from Tucker. Tucker and Hunt actually end up dining in the same restaurant in one scene and what happened in that scene had me questioning the credibility of everything I had seen up to that point.

Credibility notwithstanding, it all takes a back seat to the charismatic movie star performance by Robert Redford that keeps this character immensely likable and keeps this movie completely engaging. His matinee idol, pretty boy looks are gone, but that face has such character now...every wrinkle, every line, just giving the actor and the character he's playing the respect and undivided attention they have earned and deserve. Despite the professional cast and handsome production values, I would be lying if I didn't admit that whenever Redford wasn't onscreen, the film screeched to a halt...I didn't care about Hunt's wife (Tika Sumpter) and his kids, but watching him eat, sleep, and breathe Tucker was a lot of fun.

Sissy Spacek made a lovely leading for Redford and was reminded that both won the Oscars they already have the same year. Casey Affleck is charming as Detective Hunt and Tom Waits made the most of his screen time as well. The film is beautifully photographed and also deserves mention for editing, sound mixing, and an evocative musical score, which included a lyrical folk tune backing a deadly high speed chase, a scene that took my breath away. There's a slow spot here and there, but movie legend Robert Redford makes this one worth your time.