The early reviews are quite positive for a trio of movies filmed in Cincinnati – Robert Redford's The Old Man & The Gun, the backwoods Donnybrook fight and Emilio Estevez's The Public.
All three were screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, which ends Sunday Sept. 16.
Donnybrook was Toronto's only world premiere. Redford's movie premiered at Colorado's Telluride Film Festival Labor Day weekend. The Public debuted at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in January, but it has not yet found a distributor. Here's the first word about them:
THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN
Film critics were impressed with The Old Man & The Gun, which Redford says will be his last movie as an actor. The Oscar-winner plays real-life bank robber Forrest Tucker, based on a New York article, who escaped from San Quentin at the age 70. Director David Lowery started filming here in April 2017 with Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Elisabeth Moss, Tiki Sumpter and singer Tom Waits.
After seeing The Old Man & The Gun in Toronto, Screen International critic Tim Grierson calls it a "small gem…. Redford has rarely been this commanding in his recent work, playing Tucker with a mischievousness in his eyes but also so much soul that his thieving feels more like an expression of some sad longing than a chronic criminal mind-set."
The Sept. 28 release is timed "no doubt hoping to garner awards consideration for Redford and co-star Sissy Spacek. Strong reviews should attract art-house crowds — particularly older viewers who will relish watching these two legends, and perhaps relate to the film’s themes of aging and regret," Grierson writes.
Variety's Peter DeBruge wrote from Telluride: "It’s certainly a pleasure to watch — almost like a seduction, or that terrific opening scene in Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight, where George Clooney, pretending to have a gun but in fact armed with nothing more than the twinkle in his eye and the hint of a smile, sweet-talks a nervous bank clerk (female, of course) into handing over the money. That’s pretty much how Redford does it here, although when it comes to twinkles and smiles, he can run circles around even a pro like Clooney. His performance reminds what movie stars once were capable of, delivered with natural ease and nary a trace of vanity…
"Tucker (Redford) has the air of someone we’ve seen before — and to an extent we have: Had the Sundance Kid survived the super-posse, he might have gone on to be this kind of bank robber. At one point late in the film, during a montage of all Tucker’s escapes, Lowery features a clip from The Chase, and there he is, the late-’60s golden boy, now in his very, very late 60s (technically, 82)…
"When you find something you’re good at, you stick with it. For Robert Redford, that’s acting. For Forrest Tucker, it’s robbing banks. No one really wants to see guys like this retire, but if they must, it might as well be in a film as reflective as this one…. A movie like this is a reminder of everything Redford has given us over the years."
From Telluride, Todd McCarthy wrote for the Hollywood Reporter: "If Robert Redford sticks to his pledge that he is now retired from acting, he is going out on a very good note with The Old Man & The Gun.
"This warm and gritty tale of compulsive real-life bank robber Forrest Tucker… is first and foremost a story about a man who loved his work. This sentiment could certainly be applied to Redford as well, and writer-director David Lowery makes a point of filming it in a 1970s style that vividly recalls the actor's heyday playing outlaws and other rascally characters. Longtime fans of the actor will savor this enjoyable character piece, so Fox Searchlight’s main challenge will be to entice some younger viewers to come appreciate old-timers’ still-vital talents."
Giving it a B+, Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty wrote: "It’s hard to imagine a more fitting note to have gone out on. It’s also hard to imagine a more ironic one. After all, the film is a charmingly breezy, laid-back caper about a disarmingly polite bank robber in his seventies who can't and won’t stop doing the one thing he’s good at because he loves it too much to stop...
"The film is fizzy, lightweight fun with some real moments of genuine heart. And Redford, with his frisky charisma and rascal's grin that's melted generations of hearts, owns every scene like he's taking a valedictory lap on a career that began 60 years ago. If anyone has earned the right to take one, it’s… Redford, who has left movie lovers with one last gift that will put a smile on their faces."
Frank Grillo (Captain America, Reprisal) and Jamie Bell (Fantastic Four, Billy Elliot) star in a gritty film about an epic bare-knuckle fight shot here last October by director Tim Sutton. It was adapted from Frank Bill's 2013 novel set in southern Indiana.
Grierson called Donnybrook a tale of "fighting for economic survival in modern Ohio" in Screen International.
"A raw drama about desperate individuals fighting to keep their heads above water, Donnybrook examines the underbelly of the American Rust Belt, expressing a tempered respect for those surviving on the margins. Filmmaker Tim Sutton elicits pitiless performances from Frank Grillo and Jamie Bell playing two very different criminals on a collision course…
"Set in an economically depressed Ohio small town, the film stars Bell as Jarhead Earl, a military veteran trying to raise two kids while helping his ailing wife who's addicted to pain medication. Drugs are a scourge across Donnybrook’s battered rural landscape, which is ruled by ruthless dealer Chainsaw Angus (Grillo) and his much younger sister Delia (Margaret Qualley), who have no problem resorting to violence to maintain their empire...
"Although drawing on elements of the boxing movie and crime thriller, Donnybrook is chiefly a snapshot of a community with few opportunities. Drug deals, petty theft and murder are commonplace, and… we quickly come to understand that, in a world without dependable jobs, residents have learned to get creative if they want to put food on the table. Distressed trailer parks, eyesore bars and beat-up vehicles litter the terrain, and Sutton highlights how men like Earl and Angus have distinguished themselves as survivors, unconcerned how outsiders would judge their actions."
Variety's DeBruge filed this review from Toronto: "All but unrecognizable, Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell tries to fight his way out of an opioid-ravaged trailer park in Tim Sutton's elegiac thriller. Best known as the kid from an English coal-mining town who wanted to dance, one-time Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell has grown rugged with age." As Jarhead Earl, "he's a fighter in the most literal sense — a scrappy, slightly runty pugilist who knows no other way to escape his trailer-park existence than to go up against the county's most dangerous thugs in the death match that gives this haunting, slow-burn thriller its name…
"Donnybrook is a kind of white-trash fight club — hidden away somewhere off the grid and run by men who look like a gnarly cross between neo-Nazis and Hell’s Angels — where a high-stakes buy-in earns desperate people a shot at a $100,000 pot. From the looks of it, it’s kill or be killed once you step in the ring."
The Hollywood Reporter calls Emilio Estevez's The Public a "rousing, feel-good civil disobedience" story and a "scrappy feel-good drama" with a "stellar cast."
Shot here in February 2017, Estevez wrote, directed and starred as the manager of the Cincinnati Public Library who lets several dozen homeless people stay overnight at the library during a cold snap. The cast includes Christian Slater, Alec Baldwin, Jenna Malone, Gabrielle Union, Taylor Schilling, Jeffrey Wright, hip hop artist Che "Rhymefest" Smith and Michael Kenneth Williams.
"The dialogue often has a stilted, unnatural ring to it, and it is a tribute to the cast that they manage to bring out the essence of the film, its political heart, so strongly. But the editing keeps things moving swiftly and seamlessly," the Hollywood Reporter says.
The library showdown "becomes the emblematic setting for a stand-off between America’s poor and dispossessed on one hand, and an evil mix of the police, an ambitious public prosecutor and the ever-avid media on the other. Its strong conviction should click with like-minded audiences in these times of polarized politics… The film's humorous anti-climax seems to be exactly what the audience wants, however, judging from its rousing reception at its gala screening at the Toronto International Film Festival."
Cathal Kelly of Toronto's Globe and Mail called The Public "a crusading riff on Dog Day Afternoon set in a public library."
Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post says that "like most of his previous directorial efforts, the film is suffused with modest, humanist values that raise an inescapable question: Can a guy as nice as Emilio Estevez get ahead in this business while still finding his place in it?"
Nine months after the Santa Barbara premiere, Estevez is meeting with potential distributors for the film. "Estevez is in the midst of trying to convince distributors that an audience exists for the film… heartened by the success of such films as Won’t You Be My Neighbor (about Fred Rogers) and RBG (about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) over the summer — films that, like his, seek to awaken the better angels of viewers' natures."