D: David Lowery / 93m
Cast: Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter, David Carradine, Isiah Whitlock Jr, John David Washington, Elisabeth Moss, Robert Longstreet
In 1981, and in his Seventies, career criminal Forrest Tucker (Redford) is still doing what he’s best at: robbing banks. As the founder of The Over the Hill Gang, Tucker, along with his associates, Teddy (Glover) and Waller (Waits), takes a low key, gentlemanly approach to robbing a bank. He smiles a lot, he pretends to have a gun, and no one ever gets hurt. Of course, the police don’t see it in quite the same light, and a detective, John Hunt (Affleck), becomes determined to catch Tucker and put him away. But this is easier planned than done, as Tucker stays one step ahead of everyone while he also romances a widow called Jewel (Spacek). As Hunt learns more and more about Tucker, and vice versa, a mutual respect develops between the pair. But even knowing Hunt is on his trail, and the promise of an easy retirement with Jewel is within his grasp, Tucker can’t help but keep on robbing banks. It’s not until the police finally track him down, and he’s forced to go it alone, that Tucker has to decide on what kind of future he really wants…
If Forrest Tucker hadn’t been a real life character (he passed away in 2004), and if he hadn’t really escaped from prison around sixteen times (including once, in 1979, from San Quentin), and made an estimated four million dollars from his robberies over the years, then the movies would have had to have made him up. And if a casting director had been charged with finding the perfect actor for the role, then they would have had only one choice: Robert Redford. Widely acknowledged as Redford’s swansong performance, Tucker is a fitting role for an actor who has encompassed all the qualities that David Lowery’s screenplay – itself based on a 2003 article by David Grann – imbues the character with. He’s charming, he has a relaxed manner, he appears unhurried and thoughtful, and he has that smile, that signifier that if you stick with him, everything will be okay, and most of all, a lot of fun. Redford could almost be playing himself, or an older, wiser version of the Sundance Kid, such is the modern day Western vibe that infuses the movie. And he doesn’t even have to do too much to be effective; it’s possibly the most relaxed he’s ever been, and it shows. It’s a performance that feels effortless.
But this being a David Lowery movie, it’s not just about Tucker and his almost carefree attitude to life and other people’s money. It’s also about time – what we do with it, how it affects us, whether the past informs our present, and whether the future should be something to be concerned about – and how our memories can influence how we look at time. Tucker has nothing but fond memories of his life, even though he’s spent most of it locked up, while Jewel feels regret for not having been more selfish with her time when she was married. It’s not difficult to work out which one of them feels that they’ve really been in prison, and just as easy to work out which one is the more fulfilled. But while it would be easy to look at this as another, off-kilter version of the Follow Your Dream experience, the movie is a lot subtler than that, and has a much more solid and dramatic foundation. That Lowery has chosen to layer his movie with a poignant meditation on getting old doesn’t detract from the enjoyment to be had from it, and the discerning viewer will find much that resonates along the way.
Rating: 9/10 – a movie that remains wistful and pleasantly languid for much of its running time, The Old Man & the Gun is still chock full of dramatic moments that highlight the underlying seriousness of Tucker’s “work”; with terrific performances from all concerned, and enchanting cinematography from Joe Anderson, this may end up being regarded solely as a fitting tribute to Redford and his career, but it has so much more to offer, and is so much more rewarding.