For an actor to choose to bow out before they can tarnish their name with rivers of dross like a certain Scorsese favourite is an undeniably classy move. Yet the list of those who’ve taken this path is short, most notably Jack Nicholson springs to mind. However, joining these elusive ranks is legendary American actor and founder of Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford. His swansong is a fitting riff on his most famous role as The Sundance Kid in the1969 Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Old Man &the Gun sees Redford stepping back into the shoes of an outlaw, albeit one who while still yearning for the adrenaline of a heist takes life a bit easier than his moustached predecessor.
The outlaw in question is a real figure by the name of Forrest Tucker, a man who became notorious for robbing banks and escaping jails nationwide. When we meet Tucker, he’s in his golden years but not ready to give up quite yet. As proved by the film’s opening in which we follow his escape from the pursuing police after having effortlessly cleaned out another bank. In this opening section we instantly get a grasp on who this old man is, and his moral code. He’s incongruous to the stereotypical bank robber, he won’t exit in a hail of bullets like Dillinger. Instead he chooses to hide in plain sight and utilise his unbecoming nature and natural charm to confuse. It’s his charm that gets most frequently mentioned, and this would have felt jarring were it not for Redford’s performance as Tucker, there’s no cynicism or tiredness behind his eyes instead there’s an enigmatic energy as we watch a man doing what he truly loves. It’s a pretty blatant statement regarding Redford’s years in the industry, which director David Lowry (A Ghost Story) lovingly builds upon by incorporating scenes from Redford’s 1966 film The Chase into the film.
The focus may be on Tucker, but the supporting cast strike equally intriguing notes throughout the film. Danny Glover and Tom Waits play his accomplices Teddy and Waller. They’re more begrudging to their trade but devoted to the decades long friendship they riff consistently with the joyful exuberance of men half their age. Together they form the Over the Hill gang, a moniker created by CaseyAffleck’s detective John Hunt that wants nothing more to be the man who roped in Tucker. Affleck gives a solid performance in the film, however sections solely on him feel less innovative than those revolving around the aged robbers, or Tucker’s friendship with the mononymous Jewel. Played by Sissy Spacek (Carrie) Jewel first crosses paths withForrest as a part of an early escape, and after the two become infatuated in each other. Their meetings in a local diner providing some of Lowry’s strongest dialogue, as you watch a friendship develop subtly over the course of the film.
It’s a friendship doomed to fail naturally as the plot progresses, and Tucker faces further complications arisen by the looming presence of Hunt. The finale is a crowning moment of the film, melancholic without needless misery and tense without abandoning David Lowry’s brand of Sunday morning filmmaking. It’s a beautiful thing to watchThe Old Man & the Gun unfurl before you, a meditative expose of a man with no regrets doing what he loves one final time.