David Lowery‘s The Old Man & The Gun (Fox Searchlight, 9./28) suffers, I’m afraid, from a bad case of the gentle blahs. Or, more precisely, from the congenials. It won’t hurt to sit through it, and it’s nice to watch Robert Redford glide through a mild-mannered bank robber film without anything bad or scary or challenging happening to him. Or to costars Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits and Tika Sumpter, for that matter.
A fictionalized, fable-like story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), a real-life bank robber and prison escape artist, the film plays it light and mild all the way, and I’m sorry but it doesn’t put food on the plate. Because nothing really happens, no one is threatened or put to the test, nobody risks anything, nobody bares their soul…zip.
It’s a movie about comfort and conviction (i.e., an old guy loves robbing banks and so that’s what he does) and mild vibes and incredible good luck. Robbery after robbery after robbery, and nothing really happens to anyone. Okay, Tucker gets caught. Once. And then he gets out. And then…okay, I won’t spoil. But nothing happens.
I’m open to a movie about a polite and kindly thief who knows how to treat a lady (Phillip Borsos‘ The Grey Fox was an excellent film in this regard) but I didn’t believe a word of Lowery’s film. Not a damn word. Tucker robs banks without flashing a gun or threatening to shoot anyone, and nobody ever says “nope, I won’t give you the bank’s money” or “fuck you…if you want the dough you’re gonna have to shoot me.” A craggy-faced career criminal pulls off a couple of dozen robberies, and they’re all a walk in the park.
If Forrest Tucker had been a black dude, he would have been killed early on. In his youth, I mean. Cop bullets.
Almost all of The Old Man & The Gun is set in the early ’80s, and so Affleck, who plays a Texas detective, isn’t allowed to wear the ten-day-beard look — that didn’t happen until the mid to late ’80s, and only in the coastal cities at that. And I found the idea of a Texas detective being married to an African American woman (Sumpter) in ’81 highly unlikely. Not unheard of, mind, but things were different in this country 37 years ago, especially in conservative regions.