The Old Man & the Gun
Opens: November 15
Genre: Caper comedy/romance
Duration: 94 minutes
Billing this light-hearted crime romp as the octogenarian Robert Redford’s final movie role is nice marketing, but it may turn out to be untrue. Only days after telling a journalist of his retirement decision the veteran actor announced he’d wished he was keeping his mind open to further acting offers.
Regardless of where his career finally comes to rest, this film written and directed by David Lowery (whose diverse credits include Disney animation Pete’s Dragon and 2017’s quasi-experimental A Ghost Story) brings warm reminders of the actor’s most popular strengths – the effortless incarnation of lovable rogues, reaching back to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting.
Again Redford plays a criminal the audience can’t help but root for, this time in the form of a gentlemanly bank robber at that advanced age where tea and biscuits at bingo tends to be more of a favourite pastime than bank jobs. While this is loosely based on a true story, it’s also an unlikely one belonging to the truth-that’s-stranger-than-fiction tradition. Redford – whose face is now more ridged than rugged –nonetheless deploys the correct dosage of charisma to bring viewers on side.
It’s the 1970s and we first meet Redford’s Forrest Tucker holding up a provincial bank in as polite a manner as possible. His technique involves discreetly telling a teller he has a gun and being nice about it.
In Tucker’s second onscreen robbery he has two accomplices, played here by Danny Glover and Tom Waits – the media cutely dubs the outfit ‘The Over the Hill Gang’. Their roles are so underwritten they might as well not be there. I never managed to figure out if Glover was meant to be mute or they just couldn’t afford to give him dialogue.
Faring better, despite his irksome addiction to muttering, is Casey Affleck as a cop who decides to track down Tucker after finding himself at the scene of one of his robberies but without realising that anything was actually amiss. This is a most unconventional movie cop since he doesn’t seem to really want to catch his quarry. Indeed, given the chance, when later on the hunter and his prey coincidentally find themselves eating at the same restaurant, he lets the smiling villain walk away.
Matching Redford for charm is Sissy Spacek as his love interest, the horse ranch-owning widow he ‘helps’ by the side of the road while trying to elude the cops on his tail. Put these two together and you have some genuine chemistry. When Tucker tells her honestly what he does for a living she laughs at what she assumes is a joke and goes back to believing his earlier story about being a travelling salesman.