It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Hollywood giant Robert Redford’s illustrious six-decade-long career has all led up to David Lowery’s sleepy and irresistibly charming little heist film, The Old Man and the Gun. Unhurried, laid-back and almost too relaxed, the movie tips its hat to the 82-year-old, one of the final remnants of New Hollywood — the rebels of the shiny 60s, who took down the studios and brought the film industry into a glorious new future.
Redford plays Forrest Tucker, an audacious 70-year-old, who after escaping from San Quentin prison (by building a boat and rowing himself out), carries out a string of bank heists along with two of his buddies (played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits, who are both excellent). The film is based on a New Yorker article that told the story of a real-life charming bank robber who, at the age of 76, had pulled off more than 80 robberies. The film stays true to most of the facts (including the San Quentin breakout), but takes liberties instead in the quieter moments.
And those moments come when Redford’s Tucker serendipitously meets the lovely but cash-strapped ranch-owner Jewel (Sissy Spacek). The screen comes alive when the two are together, usually in a diner, engaging in soft flirtations that seem so real that you’d be forgiven for feeling like you’ve been caught snooping.
But when there’s a crook, a cop’s not far behind. Casey Affleck’s John Hunt is a police officer who takes it upon himself to hunt the ‘Over the Hill Gang’ down. But as the chase intensifies, you can tell that Hunt is also one of the many people who’s just a little bit awed by Tucker’s unabashed romp through the country as he jumps from bank to bank, robbing them with a smile on his face and a hand on his heart. Almost all of his victims, when questioned later, will remember to remark how extremely kind he was.
But Lowery’s clever enough to not let his film be a paean to yet-another white man who got away with whatever he wanted. Through unsaid words and gentle flashbacks, we get a taste of the kind of narcissism and self-centred vileness that lets Tucker commit crime after crime with impunity.
Elisabeth Moss, only in the movie for a single scene, as Tucker’s long-lost daughter, conveys the devastation and lifetime of hurt that he left in his wake, and it is perhaps one of the few times that the viewer feels any kind of ambivalence towards the character.
The Old Man and the Gun is driven by its strong cast. While Redford may look coarse and hardened, the man’s still got a twinkle in the eye and an effervescent charisma that will have you swooning before you know it. Affleck and Spacek are strong in their characters as well, and they look lived in, which adds to the film’s allure.
And if this is really Redford’s final film, Lowery takes every chance he can to make sly references to the actor’s wide-ranging career, even including scenes from his seminal film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. And adding another layer of nostalgia to it all is the fact that Lowery filmed the whole movie on 16mm film stock, giving The Old Man a glorious grainy texture that should be appreciated on the biggest screen possible.
Don’t miss it
Old Man and the Gun is out now in the UAE.