Robert Redford has hinted that The Old Man & the Gun might be his last film. If that’s the case, he’s clearly not paying attention to the message of, well, The Old Man & the Gun.
The idea behind the film, based loosely on a true story, is this: If you like something and you’re good at it, why on earth would you stop doing it? In this case, the thing that Forrest Tucker (Redford) likes to do is steal banks. He and his two sidekicks (Danny Glover and Tom Waits) have been doing it for decades, with handsome Forrest as the frontman. He saunters into a bank, as courtly and gentlemanly as can be, and calmly flashes his gun and tells the loan officer or teller that it’s a stick-up. Forrest’s good manners and genial nature have undoubtedly always been an advantage. But his advanced age is even more so. Who would suspect that an old man has a gun?
Indeed, Forest is so inconspicuous that he robs a bank right in front of jaded detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) one afternoon, which compels John to pursue the case. As John becomes fascinated by Forrest and his life of crime—he’s been arrested many times, but always manages to break out of jail—he can’t help but to admire the old guy. And somehow, a bit of Forrest’s passion for his work rubs off on John. He’s more alive than he’s been in a while. His wife (Tika Sumpter) doesn’t quite know what’s gotten into him, but she likes it.
Meanwhile, Forrest is pursuing a lady of his own—Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a sturdy, self-possessed woman who loves horses and lives alone on a ranch. Jewel knows, or at least suspects, there’s something shady about Forrest, but she doesn’t care. She likes him. (It’s great to see Spacek back on the big screen, in all her earthy glory. Somehow she’s morphed a bit into a Colleen Dewhurst type and I’m okay with that.)
This is director David Lowery’s second collaboration with Robert Redford and he obviously adores the actor. The film could almost be seen as an homage to Redford’s career—he’s played a rakish outlaw more than once, useful in a few flashback scenes—and there’s a particular poignance as John sorts through microfilm and sees photos of the young, unblemished Redford standing in for the young Forrest. Of course, Redford plays Forrest with twinkly charm—how could he not? But he leaves room for a tiny bit of menace around the edges. They guy is a lifetime criminal, after all.
The Old Man & the Gun is a cops and robbers tale, a romance, and a gentle comedy, too. The good news is, I’m pretty sure once Redford sees how delightful the film is, he’ll give up all this nonsense about quitting acting.