THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN

Cert 12A 92mins Stars 4

Hollywood legend Robert Redford pulls the curtain down on his long acting career with this wonderfully warm and spirited character-driven comedy drama.

The remarkable tale of a real life career criminal, it’s a deft, funny and surprisingly life affirming caper which is every bit as smart and accomplished as its star.

Redford plays bank robber Forrest Tucker, the dapper leader of a team of geriatric bank robbers who the media nickname, ‘The Over the Hill Gang’, after they go on a courteous spree of low-tech bank heists across five US states.

They’re slowly pursued by Casey Affleck’s hangdog detective cop who is determined to catch the thieves after letting them slip though his fingers.

And a luminous Sissy Spacek shares a marvellous sparkly chemistry with Redford as a horse whispering widow who catches Tucker’s eye.

Director David Lowery previously made the Disney terrific live-action 2016 remake of Pete’s Dragon in which Redford had a minor role.

As camera moves and jazz score offer reminders of Redford’s 1970’s heyday, the tone of nostalgic lament deliberately echoes that of 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The cowboy classic saw Redford in his most enjoyable and best remembered role as a gunslinging outlaw alongside Paul Newman, and Tucker is clearly intended as a septuagenarian spin on the Sundance Kid. 

Occasionally if understandably indulgent with many other nods and winks to Redford’s prestigious career, this misty-eyed eulogy offers an explanation as to why he first took to acting and then stuck with it.

The tremendous supporting cast includes Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss, Keith Carradine, Tika Sumpter and John David Washington – but it’s Redford’s show all the way.

They don’t make films like this or film stars like him anymore, and it’s all credit to Redford that after an astonishing career of nearly sixty years, the Kid leaves us crying out for more.

 

MORTAL ENGINES

Cert 12A 128mins Stars 3

The latest blockbuster from the makers of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is surprisingly clunky and run of the mill as it rumbles across the big screen.

Adapted from a series of books by Brit author Philip Reeve with tremendous design and faultless CGI, it’s a steampunk sci-fi fantasy epic set 1000 years into the future on an apocalyptic Earth.

European cities are now ginormous armoured vehicles which prey on smaller mechanical towns for scarce materials such as fuel and salt.

However this inspired premise is crushed beneath the wheels of the misfiring storytelling which has clanking dialogue and no sense of time or distance while the comedy and romance barely register.

Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar does her best as an orphaned outcast intent on murdering Hugo Weaving’s duplicitous patrician, while he’ll stop at nothing to drive London to a brighter future.

Despite the actors determined efforts to provide emotional fuel, they’re too often squandered as grist for the towering spectacle.

AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS

Cert 15 86mins Stars 3

A fractious family Christmas becomes a bloody nightmare of intolerance and violence in this low budget British sci-fi horror which is an imaginative spin on TV’s Big Brother.

Sam Gittens and Neerja Naik star as Nick and Annji, who wake up to find themselves trapped by a mysterious hard black substance which has coated the outside of his parents’ unassuming house .

Though the clocks, phones and internet have stopped working, the TV starts broadcasting instructions which become increasingly less benign, with the captives assigned tasks, provided with props and punished with severe penalties for infringing of the rules.

Among the squabbling, panic and bravado of a mostly unsympathetic bunch of characters, there are occasional flashes of humour in the increasingly nightmarish activities.

The script twists the format of reality TV shows to examine our relationship to religion and the mass media, giving us an ending which sends out an agreeably grisly, condemnatory and satisfactory signal to us all.