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Movie Review: ‘Old Man’ Oscar

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    Robert Redford portrays senior-citizen bank robber Forrest Tucker in the film, “The Old Man & The Gun.”

Published October 31. 2018 09:59AM

“The Old Man & The Gun” is a throwback to 1970s’ “New Hollywood” film-making and the early films of, among others, directors Martin Scorsese, Frances Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steve Spielberg and Brian Di Palma.

That “The Old Man & The Gun” has a 1970s’ look in production design, including cinematography, lighting, sets, costumes, vehicles, and music, shouldn’t be surprising because the fact-based story takes place in 1981 in Texas and nearby states and harks back to events of the previous decade.

Forrest Tucker, who has escaped from prison 16 times, including from San Quentin at age 70, leads what the media dubs “The Over-The-Hill Gang,” which includes Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), in a series of bank robberies. The real-life story recalls “Going In Style” (1979) that starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. Call it “Grumpy Old Bank Robbers.” AARP, indeed.

Tucker befriends a widow, Jewel (Sissy Spacek). Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck, actor Oscar recipient, “Manchester by the Sea,” 2016) is on Tucker’s trail.

“The Old Man & The Gun” is also a disco decade throwback because it stars Robert Redford as Forrest Tucker in what the 82-year-old actor, who received a director Oscar for “Ordinary People” (1981) and a Lifetime Achievement Oscar (2002), has said is his last feature-film acting role. Be that as it may (or may not), Redford is a guaranteed Oscar actor nominee, and may well receive his first golden boy as actor for his stoically-distilled, intellectually-ruminative, and twinklingly-humorous portrayal of Tucker.

Redford owns the role. In his neatly-attired suits, fedora, and fake mustache, Redford is a gentleman bank robber, ever-courteous, ever-calm, and, for a time, ever-successful. Of course, the law finally catches up with him. The law, by turns, is a metaphor for time.

There’s a subtext going on in “The Old Man & The Gun” that has a lot to do with Redford’s persona. We see a young Redford in photos portraying Tucker at a younger age during the police investigation by Detective Hunt. The contrast between the wizened Redford and the fresh-faced Redford makes us think of roles the actor played in his 1970s’ prime (from 1974-1976, movie exhibitors voted Redford Hollywood’s top box-office name).

Following his big-screen movie success with ”Barefoot in the Park” (1967), the Neil Simon play that premiered as “Nobody Loves Me” in 1963 at Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope, in which Redford also starred (a photograph of Redford in the production is on the inside back wall of the theater), a string of hits followed: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1967), “The Way We Were” (1973), “The Sting” (1973), “The Great Gatsby” (1974) and “All the President’s Men” (1976). Redford’s 79 movie and TV actor credits to date include his amazing one-man, near-wordless “All Is Lost” (2013) performance and his supporting role opposite the Lehigh Valley’s Oakes Fegley in “Pete’s Dragon” (2016).

“The Old Man & The Gun” is directed David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” 2013) from a screenplay he cowrote with David Grann, a staff writer for New Yorker magazine, which published his article about Forrest Tucker’s escapades. The screenplay has amusing dialogue and some hard-won revealed truths. Look for an adapted screenplay Oscar nomination for Lowery and Grann.

Lowery directs with a systematic, firm hand and at a pace that suits the slow-walking and casual-talking lead roles as played by Redford and Spacek. Look for a director Oscar nomination for Lowery.

Director of Photography Joe Anderson gets up close and personal with Redford and Spacek in mostly profile views that reveal their wrinkles and all.

Redford and Spacek (recipient, actress Oscar, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” 1980; six-time Oscar nominee) are absolutely charming and captivating. Their scenes together are especially sweet. Look for a supporting actress Oscar nomination for Spacek.

Fine in supporting roles are Tika Sumpter as Hunt’s wife, and Ari Elizabeth Johnson and Teagan Johnson as their children.

The music by Daniel Hart, of guitar and piano, has a quiet resonance, increases in tempo with bass and drums during some of the heists and chases, and settles into a ballad that counterpoints the climatic action to good effect.

The sense of the film is akin to that of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017). These are small-town setttings and small-personalities facing big problems. With “The Old Man & The Gun,” it’s small-time thieves. The payoff is worth it.

“The Old Man & The Gun,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for brief strong language; Genre: Crime, Drama, Comedy; Run time: 1 hr., 33 min. Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: “The Old Man & The Gun” opening credits include the statement: “This story is, also, mostly true.” Filming included locations in and around Fort Worth, Tex.; Newport, Ky.; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Jackson, Mich. The soundtrack has a 1970s’ singer-songwriter vibe, including “Blues Runs The Game,” by Jackson C. Frank, and “Easy Does It,” by Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

Box Office, Oct. 26: “Halloween” continued to haunt the box office, two weeks in a row at No. 1 with $32 million, $126.6 million, two weeks, and contributed to a “Boxofficetober” record-breaker as the highest-grossing October ever with $785 million and three days to go as of press time. Meanwhile, “A Star Is Born” continued singing at No. 2 with $14.1 million, $148.7 million, four weeks. 3. “Venom” stuck in place, $10.8 million, $187.2 million, four weeks. 4. “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” continued in place, $7.5 million, $38.3 million, three weeks. 5. “Hunter Killer,” $6.7 million, opening. 6. “The Hate U Give” stayed in place, $5.1 million, $18.3 million, four weeks. 7. “First Man” stepped down two places, $4.9 million, $37.8 million, three weeks. 8. “Smallfoot” slid down one place, $4.7 million, $72.5 million, five weeks. 9. “Night School” matriculated down one place, $3.2 million, $71.4 million, five weeks. 10. “Mid90s” moved forward 10 places, $3 million, $3.3 million, two weeks. 11. “The Old Man & the Gun” walked down one place, $1.8 million, $7.2 million, five weeks.

Unreel, Nov. 2:

“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” PG: Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston direct Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen and Morgan Freeman in the Fantasy film. “The Nutcracker” classic ballet is retold in the Disney version.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” PG-13: Bryan Singer directs Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Joseph Mazzello and Mike Myers in the Biography-Drama about Freddie Mercury and the rock band Queen.

“Boy Erased,” R: Joel Edgerton directs Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton and Russell Crowe in the Biography-Drama. A son of a Baptist preacher undergoes a gay conversion program.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Pocorn Boxes

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