★★★★½ - STUFF
- Fifty-six years after making his debut as Private Roy Loomis in War Hunt, Robert Redford signs off from the cinema with this charming character piece. And in many ways it couldn't be more fitting as a swansong.
A self-confessed gentleman bankrobber, Redford's Forrest Tucker evokes memories of The Sundance Kid, The Sting's Johnny Hooker and The Horse Whisperer's Tom Booker, as he charms tellers out of cash, earns the grudging admiration of newsreaders and career cops and attempts to woo the recently widowed Jewel (Sissy Spacek).
Yes, Tucker might have been inspired by a real-life career criminal and prison escape specialist (as detailed in a 2003 New Yorker article by David Grann), but this version is one very much imbued with the charisma and chutzpah of Charles Robert Redford Jr.
Writer-director David Lowery's (Pete's Dragon, A Ghost Story) tale follows Tucker and his "over-the-hill gang" as they amble from state to state, picking off smaller bank branches in an unhurried manner. There are no disguises and no raised tempers when this trio are relieving the registers of their various denominations.
As for the police, they seem only vaguely interested in their exploits – that is, until jaded detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) find himself inadvertently at the scene of one of their operations. Fascinated by their low-key methods, Hunt is convinced he knows who the ringleader is and becomes obsessed when he discovers Tucker's multi-storied and slippery past.
However, when the pensioner perps decide to unveil an uncharacteristically more ambitious plan, Hunt finds himself playing second fiddle to the federal investigators who are determined to finally bring the gang to justice.
Although boasting the same warm humour and absorbing drama that marked out 2017's Last Flag Flying and 2016's Hell or High Water as must-see cinema, The Old Man and the Gun also reminds one of movie experiences from a much earlier era.
Lowery tells his story very much in the film grammar of the late 1970s (Redford's heyday) and early 1980s, with a gorgeous old-school soundtrack and brilliantly realised montages of Tucker's robberies' and prison breaks' past highlights. Then there's a diner scene that Michael Mann would be proud of, but one that is still very much in keeping with the movie's bright and breezy tone.
Don't be fooled, though: this is no throwaway, disposable drama. At its heart, there's a poignancy and sadness to Tucker's antics, and his life of compulsion – the one thing he could never really escape. Behind that seemingly ever-present megawatted grin, Redford seems to know this, and that his own time in front of the camera was coming to an end.
Thank goodness, then, that, if this is indeed to be his last hurrah, The Old Man and the Gun is a near-perfect send-off.
- James Croot, Stuff
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