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The Old Man and the Gun review - Robert Redford plays a bank robber who escaped prison 18 times


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Verdict: an effortlessly captivating crime caper is the perfect last hurrah for Robert Redford

“This story, also, is mostly true,” were the first words to come up on the screen. Directed by David Lowery, The Old Man and the Gun (2018) is an American crime comedy film that tells the real story of Forrest Tucker, a 70 year-old man that made a living out of robbing banks, was constantly being arrested and spent his life in and out of prison. It's based on the 2003 The New Yorker article The Old Man and the Gun, by David Grann.

There is one aspect that distinguishes this professional robber from all the ones we are used to seeing in films: his peculiar style. Tucker, or Bob, as he initially pretends to be called, robs banks by making eye-contact with the manager and casually opening his coat, revealing a gun. That is all - no shouting, no threats, no violence. He always walks away with a smile. Bank managers describe him as a “nice fella, very polite, happy”.

One day, he offers a ride to Jewel, an enchanting old lady who he catches fixing her car on the driveway. Through meeting after meeting, they share quite an unusual romance. Jewel’s passion for horses and the countryside perfectly match Tucker’s peacefulness and resilience. Both are particularly wise, tough but calm - possibly due to a hard past. However, Tucker is still, in the eyes of the law, a criminal.

Robert Redford (Tucker) and Sissy Spacek (Jewel) do a superb job playing these characters. The sense of mystery and ammbiguity surrounding the couple demands the actors to be acutely sensible to the characters’ features, and these veterans of cinenma pull it off without breaking a sweat.

Tucker keeps robbing banks and seeing Jewel, who isn’t as important as his passion for trouble. This exquisite hunger for money is often challenged by this lady, who unsuccessfully encourages him to live a lawful life.

The adventure begins when detective John Hunt (Cassey Affleck) appears. At this point, Tucker’s love story loses all its relevance, and the incessant search for the most wanted criminal in America, led by Dr Hunt, involves all the characters in an neverending and draining journey. Dr Hunt is crucial to the man hunt, tracking Tucker down, interviewing his children from a previous marriage, collecting all the information ... but the systematic robberies don’t end because, well, Tucker is incredibly clever and fearless. He always manages to escape prison and finds the most unthinkable ways to do so.

Affleck’s performance isn’t a surprise. After his leading role in Manchester by the Sea, the expectations were high enough, but this role surely marks his career. Dr Hunt is also crucial for our engagement in the story: the detective is intensely dedicated to this search, which disrupts his family life and increases the constant pressure to catch him. It was almost a cold war between these two rivals, except that this one did have a beginning and an end.

Aside from the story, the 80’s style made every scene a little more magical: the restaurant’s decoration, the jazz music and even the way the characters dressed: every detail was carefully thought out.

Interestingly, and to make it a more special film, Tucker is Robert Redford’s final role, as he announced his retirement from acting in August 2018.

The last scene of this film is a collection of the times Tucker got arrested and escaped: short videos with the date and way he managed to get away, including the most famous, when he built a kayak with two other inmates and simply paddled away. 

This film is a rousing true story that effortlessly captivates the audience, for two main reasons: it is hard to believe that this person and story even existed and, second: the incessant, crazy journey that all these peculiar characters dive into is inexplicably entertaining.

Forrest Tucker died in prison in 2004 at age 83 but this character is hard to ever forget.

The Old Man and the Gun will be released in the UK on December 7th.

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