Redford swan song?
Acting giant plays notorious bank robber in what may be his final film role
If you’ve heard or read anything at all about The Old Man and the Gun, you already know it stars Robert Redford as the real-life serial bank robber Forrest Tucker, and that it’s reportedly Redford’s farewell to movie acting.
But you should also know, going in, that it has Sissy Spacek playing Jewel, a widowed Texas rancher who takes a liking to Forrest without really knowing what it is that he does when he’s “at work,” and it has Casey Affleck as a moody police detective whose personal investment in Forrest’s case keeps expanding in unexpected ways.
Redford’s character is the heart of the matter, of course, but Old Man at its best is also the story of the Spacek and Affleck characters, as reflected through their respective encounters with Forrest. To a lesser extent, that applies as well to the other guys in Forrest’s “gang,” Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits).
Even with its many bank robberies and occasional chase sequences, the film runs counter to conventional crime-film action, and while it breezes through Tucker’s story in a brisk 93 minutes, it’s got time to hang out with Forrest and Jewel during their curiously witty flirtations, and room for John Hunt (Affleck) to spend time with his wife (Tika Sumpter) and kids even while he’s rethinking his professional goals or trying to out-guess Forrest.
All in all, The Old Man and the Gun shapes up as a genial kind of outlaw ballad. Forrest Tucker, the “gentleman bandit” with a friendly smile, is quoted as saying that robbing banks is not a way of “making a living,” but rather a way of living. John and Jewel come to understand and respect that in contrasting ways, but the film as a whole clearly shares the sentiment.
The film is written and directed by David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story). Here again he’s proving his worth as a distinctly contemporary version of the shrewd auteur/entertainers of Old Hollywood.