Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s not that often actors that make it to the level of movie stardom get to have that curtain call. Robert Redford announced after the filming of The Old Man & the Gun that this would be his last film in front of the camera. A tribute to Redford and a wind-up of a great and unusual career of smartly made choices by the actor, it’s an enjoyable film and final take on the persona Redford played so well in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and Sneakers. Earlier this year Netflix released a new film called The Highwaymen, a story written by John Fusco about the Texas Rangers that finally took down Bonnie and Clyde. Years ago Redford was taking the script to Paul Newman intending it to round out their two crime films together (Butch & Sundance and The Sting), but Newman passed away. That story would have been a great final film for both, but somehow The Old Man & the Gun is truer to the legacy of Redford as that hard-to-resist bad guy. Redford hangs up the acting part of his life just the way we like him, as the good bad guy.
Writer/director David Lowery could have made The Old Man & the Gun something over the top, something like Space Cowboys, but we know Redford wouldn’t have signed up for something like that. This is more subtle, sweet, and sentimental, doing something similar for Redford to what Clint Eastwood has been doing with his elder years roles like Gran Torino and The Mule. The Old Man & the Gun is in the same genre as the Eastwood and Kevin Costner film A Perfect World, another take on Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Catch Me if You Can, and without the intensity of Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine’s Hell or High Water, introducing us to another criminal and his pursuer, this one 82-year-old Redford playing the 62-year-old real-life, early 1980s bank robber Forrest Tucker. Redford looks more 82 than 62, but it doesn’t matter, older is better here, and the casting director who teamed him with Sissy Spacek as love interest deserves some kudos. Redford’s thief is a likable enough guy who leads a small-scale Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid gang consisting of a quirky Danny Glover and Tom Waits. Ultimately the film is worthy of all these actors, enough reason alone to check it out.
Rounding out a quartet of Academy Award-winners with Redford and Spacek and a blink-and-you’ll miss him Keith Carradine, is Casey Affleck, playing the young, local police pursuer a bit differently than the typical cop trying to get his guy that we’ve seen in countless police stories. Through interviews we watch him learn that every person who has been robbed by Tucker sees Tucker as a nice, sympathetic, grandfatherly old gentleman. Taking cues from his kids and wife played by Tika Sumpter, Affleck’s cop takes a step back, and his performance is subtly played. And quite good.
In comparing Redford’s rugged roles here to roles of Eastwood and Costner (curiously all three each also have their baseball movies, Redford’s The Natural, Costner’s Field of Dreams/Bull Durham/For Love of the Game, and Eastwood’s Trouble with the Curve), we can’t forget the other sides of Redford, his Cary Grant-like roles in Barefoot in the Park, The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby, and Indecent Proposal, and other memorable roles in All the President’s Men, Three Days of the Condor, The Candidate, Brubaker, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and Out of Africa. And that’s skipping plenty, including his directing and producing work–he took his Oscar for directing Timothy Hutton, Mary Tyler Moore, and Donald Sutherland in Ordinary People. Keep an eye out for all the production photos, film footage, and head shots from Redford’s real-life past, used by Lowery to show the character of Tucker in his past–it’s another great reminder of all the films we love Robert Redford for. And Lowery even gets Redford on a horse again. It’s so much better to see Redford and Spacek in a sweet happy existence on screen than something like the profoundly sad Henry Fonda in his last performance with Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda in On Golden Pond.
For fans of Redford, Spacek, Glover, and Waits, and anyone who loves good movies, The Old Man & the Gun is not to be missed. It is available now on most platforms, including VUDU and Amazon.