Released 2018. Director: David Lowery
AFTER MORE THAN 80 MOVIES IN A CAREER SPANNING SIX DECADES, Robert Redford is hanging up his hat. A Hollywood icon rides into the sunset in the role of an aged bank robber based on the real-life career criminal Forrest Tucker who spent his whole life in and out of prisons.
Tucker’s modus operandi is good manners. He walks into a bank and asks the teller or the manager politely to put money in a bag and they duly comply. The robber is never menacing or threatening. The gentleman robs with a smile and calmly walks out with his accomplice without fuss, smooth as a freshly minted banknote. When questioned by the police later, bank employees can’t be sure the old man had a gun; they only thought he did because he said so.
Getting away from one of these easy hold-ups Tucker sees a woman by the road with car trouble. He stops and offers assistance (because he’s such a nice man, and also because it helps him evade the police). This leads to coffee at the diner and the beginning of a new relationship. Let’s also say the scene is a quick reminder that men and women in their 70s cannot be under-estimated in their ability to flirt with total strangers.
In his swan-song starring role, Redford turns on his charm offensive with consummate ease and confidence. There are sly references to The Sting, one of Redford’s biggest hits. Tucker, though based on a real-life character, is fashioned as a nod to the actor, and the story is set at a time when Redford was still riding high. The Old Man & The Gun plays like a prelude that harks back to Redford’s golden days and prompts you to dig into his old movies after seeing this.
Sissy Spacek, appearing only for the first (and the last) time with Redford onscreen, brings her own share of charisma to the mix. Does she believe she’s harbouring a bank robber? Does it matter to her? Spacek gives a laidback portrayal of a widow feeling the stirrings of the heart again with warmth and humour. The comfortable companionship and chemistry between two people who’ve just met feels completely natural and effortless.
As the cop going after the robber, Casey Affleck’s character exists not so much as the obligatory law-enforcement ‘good guy’ but more to accentuate Tucker’s talent for slipping away and enlightening the young family man. He clues in on the gang’s pattern and as a family man, becomes fascinated with Tucker especially after meeting the daughter Tucker never knew existed (Elisabeth Moss making the most of her one scene) and hearing he’s an irresponsible husband and father.
As an old-fashioned heist movie without techno dazzle, The Old Man & The Gun looks, sounds and feels like a movie set and made in the late 70s early 80s, even cleverly incorporating clips from Redford’s earlier movies into a montage of Tucker’s prison escapes.
The real Forrest Tucker may be a criminal on a spree all his life, the cinematic version is a romanticized outlaw, the kind of people for whom songs and poems are written. Daniel Hart’s light, jazzy and immensely enjoyable soundtrack plays almost non-stop throughout, sliding the movie along on its buoyant pacing, music at a farewell party for someone you wish would stay a little longer. A fitting, nostalgic celebration of a screen legend.
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