The Old Man & the Gun (2018)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on October 21, 2018 @

What has happened to Robert Redford?

Early in his career, Redford was the actor whose characters most represented alienation. Along with Jack Nicholson, Redford captured the spirit of an age - ironic and alienated.

In Downhill Racer (1969) and The Candidate (1972) - both directed by Michael Ritchie - Redford effectively played a hollow man. He was an actor willing to take major risks.

I was a fan of that actor. One of my few regrets is when I turned down an invitation to Redford's ranch, at the time of Jeremiah Johnson (1972). Instead I took my wife to London to celebrate our anniversary. I'd still take that trip, but I also regret the opportunity that I missed.

A year later along came The Way We Were (1973), and Redford became a shining movie star. Never again would he play a hollow, alienated character. Star power transcends alienation.

I had assumed that Redford would win an acting Oscar sometime in his career, but stardom blunted him.

For most of his career Redford has been one of the poster boys for liberalism in Hollywood. But other than All the President's Men (1976), his politically-oriented films have often floundered at the box office.

But is that a reason to stop trying?

In 2018 one expects Redford to be a force for liberalism against its foes - the tiger at the gates. Instead he's the pussycat at the bank.

[Redford played in Tiger at the Gates in 1959 at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania.]

Michael Ritchie may be spinning in his grave.

The Old Man & the Gun is not a swan song; it's a duckwalk - without the guitar.

The Old Man & the Gun provides lukewarm solace in a story based on an article in 2003 in The New Yorker. The film is directed and scripted by David Lowery, and it is credited to a slew of production companies.

The film, set in 1981, follows Forrest Tucker (Redford) in his quest of continuing his career as a charming, polite bank robber. The role of a lifetime?

It will please most of its viewers, but for those of us who were fans of the young Redford it's a wasted opportunity.

Lowery is given to a lot of close-ups - a multitude of Redford. Redford seems to be resting on his profiles.

The music is elevator music.

At the beginning of the film, the screen tells us this "story, also, is mostly true." Yeah, define "mostly."

Redford sought the slippery slope of truth when he played Dan Rather in Truth (2015). But that was then. Now he "mostly" seeks the truth.

The cast provides some quality. Sissy Spacek who plays a widow has chemistry with Redford. Casey Affleck, as a Texas detective, near the end of the film does give a telling gesture from a previous Redford film, but that's a rare moment. Mostly, it's slight and unchallenging.

Donald Glover and Tom Waits sometimes are present portraying Forrest's robbery allies. Veteran actor Keith Carradine is less present.

Both Redford and Carradine were born in August, but Carradine is 13 years younger, so he has little screen time.

Redford has always played the age game. For years his bio said he was a year younger than he was. Finally it was revealed he was born in August 1936, which makes him 82 at present.

In The Not So Old Man & the Gun his character is 74, but witnesses can't believe it. They say he is 50 or 60. What's 20 years?

Remember, in The Company You Keep (2012) Redford portrayed the father of the character played by Jackie Evancho. He was the father, not the grandfather, although he was 64 years older than the young actress born in 2000.

The monumentally crucial midterms of 2018 are arriving. Trump is the face of the Republicans, Pelosi is the face of the Dems, and Redford is the face of escapism.

In this time of commitment, The Old Man & the Gun is escapism and marketing.

The last image in the film is of Redford going into a bank.

Maybe that's an apt metaphor.

© 2000-2020 Tony Macklin