The first time I watched Robert Redford, it was with my dad. The film was called Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and there was something about this golden-haired young actor that instantly caught my attention. My dad succinctly made it clear, telling me the secret behind Redford’s genius: “you can never let let them see you try on the screen.”
Over the course of 78 different roles, Redford always seems to make acting look effortless. He walks into the frame with his weathered good looks and you believe it. It’s that graceful ability that powers his latest (and possibly final) film, The Old Man & the Gun. This is a breezy fun time at the movies.
Redford plays Forrest Tucker, an aging bank robber enjoying a string of heists that come off easy due to the fact that Tucker’s generosity and good spirits manage to put the bank teller and manager at ease. A method perfected over decades of work, Tucker can keep on doing this forever, but a pair of things come into his path that stops him in his tracks: a cop (Casey Affleck) and a woman (Sissy Spacek).
Based on a *mostly* true story (taken from David Grann’s New Yorker article), co-writer/director David Lowery spins an unusual heist film that may catch you off guard at first. While there are chases, a little gunfire, and the expected anti-climactic conclusion- The Old Man & the Gun moves at a gingerly pace and never overpowers you with genre-crippling cliches. The things that happen in this film just roll along and occur, instead of making a dramatic entrance.
Will Tucker make a mistake and get caught? Possibly. Will Affleck’s John Hunt, a 40-year-old cop whose dead job walking career is re-energized by the hunt for “The Over The Hill Gang”, get the final moment face to face with Tucker? Yes and no. Lowery isn’t interested in redoing the entire bank robber film sector; he just wants to put a new coat of paint on it.
It’s called Golden Eagle Bronze, or in other words, a Redford glaze. The 82-year-old actor takes a familiar role on the page and gives it something extra by simply doing his thing. A unique look that only comes from an esteemed veteran of the craft who knows when to push and when to hold back. If Redford wants to go out with this role, it would be a fitting end to an illustrious career. Most wouldn’t call it a bang, but a subtle nod and slow walk out of town. Tucker’s past is checkered and he’s far from a perfect criminal or man, but Redford makes you fall in love with this aging thief.
Affleck and Spacek are fine without being anything one would call great. They play their perfected speeds here as the unlikely speed bumps in Tucker’s run. Danny Glover and Tom Waits are hilarious and tragic as Tucker’s bank-robbing partners. Whenever Waits speaks, it comes off as profound. A Christmas story that his Waller tells leaves you wanting more of the famous musician’s crotchety voice.
If I had to call this film one thing, I’d say smooth. It comes and goes without saying anything profoundly memorable, but it will leave you smiling, like the bank tellers and managers who were lucky enough to be robbed by a happy criminal.
In the end, instead of twisting a confident tale for a far too happy ending that wouldn’t have felt right, The Old Man & the Gun goes out on a wistful note.
If this is it for Redford, he chose a good role to ride out of Hollywood on.