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Robert Redford bows out of his extraordinary movie-acting career at the age of 82 with this homely, folksy, feelgood-bittersweet dramedy: a slightly gussied-up version of a startling true story. Forrest Tucker, played here by Redford, was a bank robber and serial prison-escaper who around the turn of this century hit the headlines as a dapper seventysomething by pulling off a series of bank heists, always impeccably courteous and well-dressed, flashing the gun inside his jacket to the astonished bank teller who would be almost hypnotised by his casual aplomb. Tucker would often be in the company of a couple of other old rascals: they became known to chortling TV newsreaders as the The Over-the-Hill Gang.
In 2003, the New Yorker’s David Grann published a longform article/interview with Tucker in the prison where he was to die one year later. Director David Lowery, who made A Ghost Story and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, has adapted this piece, keeping Grann’s Hemingwayesque title, although the resulting movie makes Tucker a rather less sociopathic and less complex figure. It invents a love interest for him, named Jewel, played by Sissy Spacek, a woman with a picturesque ranch on which she keeps horses. In the film, Forrest has been married just once, as a young man, and now forms this romantic attachment to Jewel, with whom he is reasonably honest about his roguish living. In real life, he was married more often, and with less candour.
Redford carries off this role with a stately good nature and residual charisma, but I have to admit to finding something a bit stiff and waxworky in his style, certainly compared with Danny Glover and Tom Waits who are appreciably more relaxed and limber playing the other gang members. Casey Affleck plays John Hunt, the paunchy and grizzled cop on Tucker’s trail, and in an early scene he is impatient with the way his colleagues and the news media are treating this as a big joke: “Nothing’s funnier than armed robbery, right?”
It is a tonal issue that the film doesn’t entirely solve. Chases, robberies and shootouts will happen to the accompaniment of musing country music on the soundtrack. The gang’s most audacious robbery happens off camera. It’s as if to say that we mustn’t get too excited, as this is a kind of crime that has to be regarded negligently, even humorously: an old guy absurdly and yet Quixotically hanging on to a young man’s game in mortality’s shadow.
The film finally and none too subtly invites us to take Tucker’s rapscallion adventures as a metaphor for Redford’s glorious career. The film uses stills and footage of his younger self and a final montage almost morphs into a lifetime-achievement clip reel.
Well, The Old Man & the Gun isn’t a bad note for Redford to end on – certainly better than last year’s unfortunately titled Our Souls at Night. My favourite among his later work is his brilliant and all but wordless performance as the embattled yachtsman in JC Chandor’s All Is Lost, from 2013. What is so extraordinary is that Redford still is able to project his youthful self: this is a man, after all, who in Barry Levinson’s 1984 movie The Natural, at 48, was able to get away with one soft-focus scene in which he was supposed to be a teenager. Redford’s farewell is a sad, sweet moment.
Source: The Guardian
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