A man not made for defeat


HANDS up! The incorrigible crook, Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is the old man in question. Photograph courtesy

YOU’VE GOT TO hand it to Robert Redford. Now, at 82, this actor who was the ultimate in good looking dudes since the 1950s, is not only the star but also one of the producers of The Old Man and the Gun, an absolutely delicious foray into a lot more than bank robbery. This tale of an incorrigible old craggy-faced felon called Forrest Tucker (Redford) who is as sexy as he was 60 years ago and just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer is a yarn that takes in all that ageing and its discontents represents.

But more than that, it’s a gentle and spicy period piece set in the early 1980s that would make Ernest Hemingway proud. Based on a story found in the New Yorker, the film is premised on the idea of a young cop, John Hunt (Casey Affleck) catching a big crook in a way that will lend his career and self-image the pizzazz he thinks it warrants, it’s an Old Man and the Sea kind of yarn, in which the main protagonists find peace and levity in a way they could not have anticipated.

Beautifully cast, the work also includes a gloriously ageing Sissy Spacek as Jewel, Forrest Tucker’s love interest and veterans Tom Waits and Danny Glover as Waller and Teddy, the respective side-kicks of the so-named ‘Over the Hill Gang.’ Featuring a feisty and poignant cameo by Elisabeth Moss, the storytelling skills in this low key film are sophisticated and tight and will leave you with a smile on your face and instant context that reflects on the skills of old hands in bringing out a story with utter clarity.

But this is not just any film. It’s a remarkable foray into the edifice of motion picture history. It would make the stars and writers behind pre-Code films in America smile in their graves. It’s proof that the wheel is turning. Pre-Code refers to those years between 1929 when sound was introduced into film and 1934 when the Hays Code aka The Motion Picture Production Code was seriously enforced in America. It was a time in which movie narratives flourished with the kind of lurid moral abandon that the administrators of the Code frowned on and eventually slapped down and out of sight. Pre-Code was a time in which crooks could be sexy and there were two sides to stories of sexuality, violence and felony. The Code came with moral imperatives that forced all these maverick kinds of tales into a clear right and wrong reflection, deemed suitable for the American public, until 1968.

And so, with outrageously fine pre-Code amorality, Forrest Tucker is a crook. He steals things. He escapes from the police. But above all, he loves doing this. It’s what keeps him frisky. And you will leave this film with a sense of what it is to continue being alive in this crazy, disappointing world of ours. A hefty bit of levity.

  • The Old Man and the Gun is directed by David Lowery and is performed by Casey Affleck, J Todd Anderson, Dennis J Barket, Sydney Benter, Carter Bratton, Daniel Britt, Annell Brodeur, Warren Bryson, Keith Carradine, Todd Covert, Tomas Deckaj, Mike Dennis, Lisa DeRoberts, Larry Jack Dotson, Pam Dougherty, Christine Dye, Annie Fitzpatrick, Augustine Frizzel, Kay Geiger, Cody Gilbert, Danny Glover, Alphaeus Green Jr., Toby Halbrooks, Clara Harris, John Wayne Hunt, Barlow Jacobs, Kyndra Jefferies, Ari Elizabeth Johnson, Teagan Johnson, Gene Jones, Jennifer Joplin, Tom Lepera, Robert Longstreet, Kevin McClatchy, Kelly Mengelkoch, Elisabeth Moss, Barry Mulholland, Nathan Neorr, Patrick Newall, Asher Parran, Robert Redford, Leah Roberts, Derek Snow, Sissy Spacek, Tika Sumpter, Todd Terry, Kenneisha Thompson, Jordan Tovillion, Tom Waits, Allen Warchol, John David Washington, Torie Wiggins, Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Marissa Woolf. It is written by David Lowery based on a New Yorker article by David Grann. Produced by Toby Halbooks, Bill Holdeman, James M Johnston, Dawn Ostroff, Robert Redford, Jeremy Steckler and James D Stern, it features creative input by Daniel Hart (music), Joe Anderson (cinematography), Lisa Zeno Churgin (editing), Tisha Blood, Barbara Harris and Matthew West Taylor (casting), Scott Kuzio (production design), Olivia Peebles and Winona Yu (set) and Annell Brodeur (costumes). Release date in the Cinema Nouveau Ster Kinekor suite: November 8 2018.

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