David Lowery (director)
1h 3mins (length)
06 December 2018 (released)
11 December 2018
Billed as Robert Redford's final film, The Old Man & the Gun stars the Hollywood legend as real-life stick-up artist Forrest Tucker - a career criminal who continued pulling capers well past retirement age.
The 82-year-old actor is perfectly cast by director David Lowery as Forrest - a suave thief who robs banks using his charm as well as the threat of violence to make off with the cash. It's the perfect valedictory role for Redford - whose rugged but boyish good looks made him one of the stars of the 1960s and 70s, and now, as a chiselled elder statesman, still has the power to make audiences swoon.
Based on a New Yorker article about Forrest's escapades, the film opens with him at the start of a 1981 robbery spree - pulling an unusual bank heist in that he is unfailingly polite to the tellers after quietly showing them the firearm he has in his pocket. His poise throughout the crime means other customers are completely unaware they are caught in a bank robbery until he's out the door and staff can raise the alarm.
Plotting his heists with two decrepit associates, (Tom Waits and Danny Glover), he travels across America's hinterland on a robbery spree unhindered until ambitious detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is caught in one robbery and makes it his mission to find the man who committed an audacious crime under his nose.
The detective spots a pattern of bemused victims stretching across several states - many of whom are unable to conceal their fondness for a criminal who would reassure them that they "are doing a good job" even as he menaced them with a firearm. After working out Forrest's identity, and that he is a notorious prison escapologist with a criminal record stretching back into his teens, John relentlessly pursues him as a worthy adversary, as, egged on by his wife (Tika Sumpter), he tries to catch his quarry before the federal agents who take on the case.
For a bank caper, The Old Man & The Gun is a relatively low-key affair - there are few action scenes, and when they arrive its car chases are more slow and sedate than fast and furious. Forrest's relationship with Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a woman he meets at the road side after a successful heist, and forms a bond with, poses an interesting counterpoint to his daring criminal capers - as like many bank robbers before him he is torn between the love of a good woman and the thrill he gets from his career.
Spacek is typically excellent as Jewel, bringing pathos to a role that could have been incidental, but there's no question the star of the show is Redford, as the film is full of nods to his most iconic roles including one horseback scene that makes one reminisce about him riding alongside Paul Newman's Butch Cassidy as the Sundance Kid.
The film lacks dramatic pyrotechnics, and Glover, Waits, and Affleck are rather underserved by a plot that has few unforeseeable twists, although they do get some good lines. But as a swansong for Redford, The Old Man & The Gun is a nostalgic delight. It's the perfect sign off for one of the greatest Hollywood stars of his era.