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The Old Man & The Gun (Blu-ray Review)

Robert Redford has never been a chameleon-like performer, but there’s something to be said for the way he brings an unflappable cool to almost all of his features, let alone a naturalness to any persona he is tasked to put on. The Old Man & the Gun may or may not be the end of Redford’s career in front of the camera, but it would be a fine swan song. This laidback crime caper could have gone down some different avenues to tell the story of a real-life career criminal, but when the camera accomplishes so much with slow push-ins on old man Redford’s very friendly face, why make things more complicated?

Film:

Writer/director David Lowery already capitalized off the gravitas Redford brings to any project by having him in a supporting role in the unassuming Disney remake Pete’s Dragon. Now, having wandered in the realm of the experimental with A Ghost Story, Lowery is back, continuing to do right by his 70s cinema reverence with a film that would feel right at home in the New Hollywood. Shooting on 16mm and never missing a chance for a smart match cut or a slow zoom, this bank robbery tale is the kind of film one can sit back and comfortably enjoy.

Redford stars as Forrest Tucker, an elderly criminal famous for his lifetime of heists and having a knack for escaping prisons, whenever he gets caught. While the film eventually spends some time going over those miraculous escapes, the more significant focus is on Tucker’s sense of self at his current age, along with the new relationship he strikes up with Jewel (Sissy Spacek). While there’s plenty of fun to mine from seeing Redford as a gentlemanly thief who politely robs bank tellers, without making them feel hurt physically or emotionally, Lowery’s screenplay wisely chooses to direct the heart of the story towards the relationship.

Naturally, the two Oscar winners make for an excellent romantic pairing, as Redford’s charm goes well with the easy-going nature of Spacek. Treating these characters and the audience like adults, The Old Man & the Gun doesn’t even find itself concerned with spelling out the position these people are in. Tucker does tell Jewel about who he is, but the movie knows it’s better not to get bogged down in the specifics of that conversation, by instead letting these two continue getting to know each other in a realistically minimalist way.

On top of the admiration an audience will already find in Tucker, Casey Affleck co-stars as a scruffy detective that finds some mild amusement in chasing after Tucker and his “Over The Hill Gang” (the fellow accomplices played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits). While Affleck, once again, finds a way to make doing as little as possible somehow work in developing a very lived-in character, there’s an early promise that his role as the cop going after the robber is not one in which the inevitability of a shootout is on the line. A key meetup is played with a considerable amount of restraint and respect, but this isn’t Heat, it’s a chance to dig into a somewhat mythic figure.

For a film about a bank robbery, The Old Man & the Gun sits about as far away from the action as it can. We rarely see the heists play out in full. By the time some scenarios build towards some form of violence, the film cuts to the aftermath. Lowery does find a certain level of joy in showing Redford’s winning smile during some high-speed pursuits, although those moments feel less about the tense-nature of the situation, and more like a way of having a hand in adding to the iconography of such a presence.

It doesn’t hurt to see The Sundance Kid having the time of his life here. In one scene, Affleck’s character finds surveillance footage of Tucker, right before a heist, and notes that he seems to be smiling. There’s nothing about the enthusiasm in Redford’s performance that would suggest otherwise. Endpoint or not, Redford is not ready to break his sense of cool. He gets to embrace the qualities that have made him a movie star with enough thought going on behind the eyes to keep him involved in quality projects during his decades-long career.

Well-shot, not lacking in throwback style, and fitted with a cool jazzy score by Lowery regular Daniel Hart, The Old Man & the Gun is another inspired opportunity for Redford to shine. It only helps that everyone around him is on the same track. The film revels in the simple pleasures of telling a grounded, relaxed story, and that’s plenty fine when the heroic bank robber you are watching barely even wants to show you the loaded weapon he brought along, just in case things get hectic. He’d rather smile politely and insist you give him the money instead and this film works that angle with ease.

 

Video:

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail: Shot in a bit of an old school manner on 16mm, The Old Man & The Gun still registers well on this Blu-ray transfer. There’s a lot to like about the no-frills approach taken for the majority of this film, as we still get plenty of detail in the various locations we see, even if its just dingy homes or old farms.

Depth: Character spacing plays well here. Note the bank heists and how we see Redford framed against others to get a great sense of the dimensionality at play. It’s all well-handled here.

Black Levels: Black levels are strong throughout. There’s a good amount of darkly lit scenes to present a certain kind of atmosphere, and this transfer does a fine job of not having that possible sense of murkiness invade the frame.

Color Reproduction: Colors look great. Costume design stands out especially, given how the brothers choose to dress. There’s a lot to like in how this world looks when it comes to color.

Flesh Tones: Character detail is great. Facial textures are handled in all the right ways.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

 

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: This is a strong enough lossless track doing what it needs to make the jazz-infused feature have enough fun and bounce it how the audio presentation comes to life.

Low-Frequency Extension: The film is too breezy to go to town on your woofer, though one sequence perks the LFE channel up a bit (it involves a car chase).

Surround Sound Presentation: The film is front and center-focused, but the rear channels do an excellent job of keeping ambient sounds present as well. The balance is strong here, keeping the environments all in line for a satisfying listening experience.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.

 

Extras:

I am happy to see a decent number of extras here, including a commentary and some good interviews.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary by David Lowery – Lowery, by himself, does a decent job of delving into the fun details that came with making this film.
  • Everything Else We Shot (HD, 9:10) – Deleted scenes edited together like PTA usually does on his films.
  • Prison Cats (HD, 2:53) – Woodworking and cats in a prison work factory…okay.
  • On Filmmaking (HD, 12:50) – Lowery and Redford discuss filmmaking.
  • 31 Wake-Ups (HD, 6:34) – This featurette goes over one of the bank robbery sequences, and some other fly-on-the-wall footage.
  • Joining the Hunt (HD, 3:15) – This could be longer, but this feature goes over the actual case by way of the police officers who were involved.
  • Gallery (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)
  • DVD Copy of the Film
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

I feel like The Old Man & The Gun is going to turn into a favorite for a lot of people who catch up on it at home. It’s nice and breezy, but Redford and the rest of the cast seem so tuned in that it makes for the kind of easy watch you respect. The Blu-ray is strong as well, with an excellent video and audio presentation to go along with the solid selection of extras available. Don’t steal yourself a copy, but pick one up if you can.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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