The Old Man & the Gun

November 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck
Directed by: David Lowery (“A Ghost Story”)
Written by: David Lowery (“A Ghost Story”)

If legendary actor/director Robert Redford is really hanging it up after 60 years in Hollywood – he announced his retirement in August – his final film, “The Old Man & the Gun,” is just about as perfect of a swan song as any thespian could hope for. With “Old Man,” Redford has come full circle in his career and found his way back to playing the charismatic scoundrel he was known for in classic films like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting.”

At age 82, Redford hasn’t lost any of that appeal. In “Old Man,” writer/director David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon”) has crafted a story that underscores Redford’s talents as someone who can command a screen even when portraying restrained characters. Redford has never been a showy actor, but he’s always been a showstopper.

He does the same in “Old Man” as Forrest Tucker, a notorious career criminal who spent his entire life in and out of jail for robbing banks until his death behind bars in 2004. The year before he passed, The New Yorker ran a profile on Tucker – which Lowery used as the basis for his screenplay – in which he said that during his bank-robbing escapades, he was able to successfully escape from prison a whopping 18 times.

“Old Man” introduces audiences to Forrest in the early 1980s doing what he does best – looting a bank and wearing a fashionable blue suit, brown fedora and wry smile. As most bank tellers and managers can attest while being held up, Forrest was polite and gentlemanly – the ideal target for Austin police officer John Hunt (Casey Affleck) to admire, but also track down.

While on the run, Forrest charms his way into the life of Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a widow who is quickly enamored by his nonchalant demeanor and mysterious air. Redford and Spacek, who surprisingly had never starred in a film together before, are wonderful in the few scenes they share. With the film’s old-school cinematic look and feel, Lowery takes moviegoers back in time to witness the noteworthy pairing as if it happened 40 years ago. It’s romantic, nostalgic and awfully adorable.

In Lowery’s hands, “Old Man” becomes more than just a biopic about an aging outlaw. It’s a tribute to Redford and the lasting effect he has left behind on the film industry. In one of the most poignant scenes of the year, Lowery packages all 18 prison escapes Forrest allegedly pulled off. During one of those escapes, viewers get a glimpse of a young Redford’s face, a scene borrowed from 1966’s “The Chase,” and edited flawlessly into the montage. It’s a bittersweet farewell to Redford and one that Lowery, as he does with the whole film, treats with the highest regard.

Get Low

August 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek
Directed by: Aaron Schneider (debut)
Written by: Chris Provenzano (“Thank You, Goodnight”) and C. Gaby Mitchell (debut)

In the opening shot of “Get Low,” we see a house engulfed in so many flames it would be virtually impossible for anyone to escape a fiery death. However, when the silhouette of a male figure manages to get out of the house and run away, you know that person has a story to tell no matter how long it’ll take him to do it.

In “Get Low,” Oscar-winning actor Robert Duvall (“Tender Mercies”) is in top form as Felix Bush, an elderly man living alone in Tennessee during the 30s who has kept a secret for years and has finally decided to tell anyone who’s interested in listening what he’s buried inside him before it’s time to be buried himself.

The revelation, however, will come on his terms. When Felix visits a funeral home run by Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his young associate Buddy (Lucas Black) it’s for a specific purpose. He wants to throw a funeral party for himself and wants to invite everyone that has a story to tell about him.

To ensure a big turnout (mostly because everyone is scared of him and his reputation as “Old Man Bush”), Felix announces he will leave all his land after he dies to the winner of a raffle at the event. With business not going so well for the funeral home (“People are dying in bunches everywhere but here,” Frank says), Frank sees an opportunity to make some money and agrees to help Felix plan for his unusual get-together.

Directed by first-timer Aaron Schneider, “Get Low” is a modest Southern folktale about atonement, grief, and coming to terms with one’s own mortality. Leave it to Duvall to take a character that could have come off as a small-minded grump knocking at death’s door and bring him to life. Murray, too, is a joy to watch as he stays just above the wave of melancholy that sweeps through the tone of the entire picture.

The rustic feel and slow pace of “Get Low” might not be for everyone, but if you want to see a master like Duvall craft a fine performance it might be a good idea to hitch a ride to the countryside. It’ll definitely be an inspiring journey.

Four Christmases

November 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn, Robert Duvall
Directed by: Seth Gordon (“The King of Kong”)
Written by: Matt Allen (debut), Caleb Wilson (debut), Jon Lucas (“Rebound”), Scott Moore (“Rebound”)

You have to feel a little sorry for director Seth Gordon. After helming 2007’s “The King of Kong,” a well-received and very entertaining documentary about a video game rivalry between two Donkey Kong world-record holders, he somehow finds himself stuck with four unproven screenwriters during his first feature, “Four Christmases.”

To make matters worse, “Four Christmases” isn’t the kind of holiday family movie a writer can really use to spread his or her wings. It’s a basic Christmas slapstick comedy where most of the characters end up on their backs in the most painful ways and someone learns a valuable lesson about the importance of family.

Unlike other crappy Christmas comedies in recent years like “Christmas with the Kranks,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Surviving Christmas,” the only thing “Four Christmases” has going for it is likeable albeit mismatched lead characters. Vince Vaughn (who was also pretty bad in last year’s holiday horror “Fred Claus”) and Reese Witherspoon star as Brad and Kate, a couple who decides to take a vacation to Fiji instead of visiting their families for Christmas.

The weather, however, doesn’t cooperate with their plans and Brad and Kate are forced to make four separate trips to their divorced parents when they’re caught on the local news trying to make a break for it at the airport.

Each home visit brings along its own cliché family calamity. For example, at the backwoods home of Brad’s dad Howard (Robert Duvall), social statuses clash when Brad’s cage-fighting brothers Denver (Jon Faveru) and Dallas (Tim McGraw) are offended when he buys the family expensive gifts. Other parents on the list to receive a yuletide house call: Brad’s mom Paula (Sissy Spacek) and her much-younger lover, Kate’s mom Marilyn (Mary Steenburgen), who has started dating a church pastor (insert baby Jesus jokes here), and Kate’s dad Creighton (Jon Voight), who’s really the heart of the whole movie but is cut short by a thinned-out script.

Cheesy joke after cheesy joke, “Four Christmases” might not make you gag as badly as Brad does when he sees a baby puke, but you definitely won’t feel good after watching these family members butt heads under the mistletoe. Nor should director Gordon feel too terrible for squeezing as much as he possibly could from the mess he was handed. Making mansions out of matchsticks probably isn’t easy either.