Right from its opening act, The Old Man & the Gun plays out like a slightly more sophisticated, slower take on Heat. It’s got that familiar theme of impressively competent bank robbers staying one step ahead of a savvy police officer, a lively pace and stellar performances.
Director/Writer David Lowery tackles the real story of Forrest Tucker, who made a career of robbing banks. The film finds Forrest (Robert Redford, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) late in life. He’s in his 70s, but still running his bank robbing hustle.
With a gleam in his eye and a calm, steadying demeanor, it’s easy to see why Forrest left bank tellers remarking his polite demeanor. Redford exudes charm for days and still has more natural leading man charisma than most performers of this generation.
Like Heat, there’s a romantic subplot that raises the question if Forrest can love anything beyond robberies. Jewel (Sissy Spacek) doesn’t offer a lot of complications and might be a gentle and soothing enough presence to make Forrest rethink his ways.
It’s refreshing to see how the relationship between Forrest and Jewel is handled. There’s a confidence and playful flirting we pretty much never see with characters over 60 years old on screen. That said we still get the typical Hollywood age gap as Redford is 82 and Spacek is 69.
Forrest and Jewel’s banter is light and neither is wasting too much time complaining about aches and pains and pondering how much time they have left. Their senior status is not viewed as a death sentence and both act like they’ve got plenty of life to enjoy. This helps make their scenes some of the film’s highlights.
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I wish Lowery were able to go deeper in Forrest’s head to explain his addiction-like obsession with bank robberies. What made that the ultimate thrill for him compared to anything else? Redford helps to fill in some of the narrative gaps with a sly smile when Forrest hears a news report of his antics. This life of an outlaw is clearly appealing to him, but as we learn more about Forrest, there seems to be something clearly missing.
Jewel is almost written in a way to be a spoilsport to all of Forrest’s fun. It also would have been nicer for him to have to put in more work in courting her as Lowery almost writes her to be on standby whenever Forrest needs her.
Along with pals, Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), Forrest is the ringleader of the group police call The Over the Hill Gang. Their antics gain the attention of police detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea), who begins his own obsession with tracking them down.
John isn’t the cliche steely-focused cop as he actually enjoys being around his wife (Tika Sumpter) and kids (actual siblings Ari Elizabeth and Teagan Johnson). This is the kind of low-key role that won’t see Affleck add more awards hardware, but he delivers an engaging performance.
Lowery includes some fun nods to previous Redford films as well as outright using archival footage of a younger Redford in a clever montage. The score is very solid with some terrific jazz numbers that captures that improvisational feel of a small-scale cat and mouse caper.
The Old Man & the Gun is a compelling crime caper with Redford still delivering the goods and a filmmaker perfectly content letting him steal the show one final time.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures