“The Old Man And The Gun”

Contentment and pathology are the poles that keep director and writer David Lowery’s film “ The Old Man and the Gun” moving forward. Touted as Robert Redford’s last starring role, this  film gives Redford a chance to rectify his lone sailor mess in “ All Is Lost” (2013). Redford does not do well when he is the only cast member and has no one to smile or crinkle his eyes at but wet fish. He is best at charming repartee, and here Sissy Spacek lends her charm in mirroring his. Jewel ( Spacek) and Forrest ( Redford) have the chemistry that most of the older viewers came to see. Oldsters understand swan songs.  Spacek can twirl a bracelet, and Redford can smile.

The irony is that the early forties demographic are the ones that could learn the most from this film. Much of this is due to the character of John Hunt, captured so beautifully by Casey Affleck. Hunt is a Texas detective who connects small bank robberies in five states in two years time to a group of three old prison buddies dubbed the “ Over-The-Hill Gang”.

Affleck’s character is feeling like no one cares if these robbers are caught. He is dedicated, but under appreciated. He has a loving family, and his two children look up to him as “ catcher of the bad guys”. Vignettes of the children sending messages over the police scanner and using push pins to target the pattern of robberies are warm and insightful. This is how long, painstaking work and family can co-exist. When the Feds decide to take over Hunt’s investigation, Affleck looks tired, but not defeated. Will he learn something from his gentleman outlaw ? Will we discover more than clichés about doing what you love?

The storyline “ The Old Man And The Gun”  is based on is a true story first made public in the pages of the New Yorker. In 2003, David Grann researched and wrote the piece on Forrest Tucker, a seventy-eight-year-old man,  who robbed some umpteen  banks and broke out of numerous jails. San Quentin being one of them.

Though the film is replete with repetitive scenes of calm, well-planned heists, and deli booths of pie and coffee, the back story of women left and children denied is glossed over. Small hauls and good manners don’t cancel out the threat of gunfire. When one teller cries under stress, Tucker sweetly calms her down. His accomplices, played understatedly by Danny Glover and Tim Waits, keep the pacing flowing. They watch, take notes, stand on roof tops and take photos. Armored cars seem to ramp up the gang internal beat.  Then they return to motel rooms and watch black and white cowboy flicks.

Meanwhile, Tucker does romance Jewel. They rock on her front porch and ride her few horses. She reminisces about happiness. He thinks of a small proud boy, and we learn a little of his past. Tucker buys her a bracelet ( a jewel for Jewel ) and attempts to take care of her mortgage surreptitiously. Spacek is good at moseying along. She makes listening to water boil prescient.

This is something that the young detective becomes good at too. Who is living the chaser or the chased? When he dances in the dark kitchen with his bone-tired wife, Affleck draws depth . The Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde tropes are here, but it is the quiet “ nick knack paddy whack, give a frog a loan” moments that mean the most. Humor, respect, and craziness outshine “throwing the cuffs on”.


“ Sorry To Bother You”

“Sorry To Bother You” is a fresh satire that starts out imaginatively, and it assuredly has its values in the high niche; but somewhere the satire just loses its tone. I wanted to like this critically acclaimed movie more than I did, because I believe that greed and power are unbridled and welcomed by too many. Humor is a great way to curb a few deadly sins, and capitalistic critiques are needed these days. Even so,  “ Sorry To Bother You”’s  lack of polish and the poor frame lighting in most of the film distracted me from its message.

Production values aside, there was much that I liked. Who doesn’t wince at a sell-out?! And the actual dropping in of our protagonist telemarketer was hysterical. He interrupts lives by dropping in like the drone that he is.

Upworldly mobile desires are seen as complicity in the exploitation of workers. Contemporary society needs this critique. Going from a garage bedroom where the door flies up randomly to a minimalist chic abode has its understory of sold out unions and ghosted friends. Truth is told. The “ Royal View” is not so royal.

Director and screenwriter, Boots Riley, is promising. He is smart, value -laden, and imaginative. Add to this that he takes risks. His sci-if ass ending makes its point arrestingly. It is audacious! Financial glory is not worth selling your soul.

The story line draws you right in. Cassius Green ( Lakeith Stanfield ) needs to get out of his uncle’s garage and pay his back rent. He knows that there is something sick about  watching the reality show “ I Got The Shit Kicked Out of Me” all day, and the tv ads for “ Worry Free Lifestyle” seem too good to be true. Arnie Hammer plays its CEO as truly maniacal, by the way.

Cassius’s telemarketing interview is replete with bootleg trophies and awards. His poor self-esteem sizzles into initiative as he veers from “ sticking to the script”. With his briefcase and newly acquired “white voice” championed by a cameo from a laughing Danny Glover: “ Young blood, use your “white voice”, not Will Smith white.”  Cassius is moving on up from basement cubicles to the power-caller, golden elevator. The password at the VIP bar is “ upscale, elegant”.  The bulky headset is now blue-tooth slim.

Fun with names like “Debra DeBauchery” make their point humorously. The risqué earring messages of girl friend, Detroit, ( Tessa Thompson ) push into her performance art job where she twirls signs and more.

Humiliation is also in the genetic modification allotted by the corporation’s “ fusing caplets” . The future of labor is half donkey. Cassius sees the light and apologizes to his striking, union friends who emote,  “ you just get used to the problem. No body believes calling your Congressman works…”.

This film is relevant and affirmative but needs polish. Spike Lee, or John Singleton needs to mentor this hip-hop artist with a dream for film.