The legend that is Robert Redford bows out on a high note, in David Lowery’s highly enjoyable The Old Man & the Gun
There’s been speculation for a while now that Robert Redford has made his last film, and if this one is to be the swan song then it is an ideal choice.
The Old Man and the Gun opens with Redford removing a moustache suspiciously reminiscent of Sundance – how much you want to read into that is up to you – before speeding away in a white car.
The film is full of fun, is very witty, and is strangely life-affirming – and we are siding with Redford’s character Forrest Tucker throughout. This is despite the fact that he is a career criminal, a jail-breaker and part of a small group of pistol-packing grandpas.
Set in 1981, we meet Forrest Tucker, a non-violent bank robber – described variously by his victims as polite, a gentleman and happy. It seems like an enjoyable experience to have this man rob your bank.
In pursuit is Detective John Hunt (director David Lowery’s frequent collaborator Casey Affleck) whose determination to bring the criminal to justice puts him in close contact with his quarry. More than once I was put in mind of de Niro and Pacino in Heat, and the respect that each has for the other is clear. But the tone is very different from Michael Mann’s film. When Redford and Affleck finally do come face to face, it is in a diner but not across a table. That short scene is one of the highlights of the whole film with both men on great, if understated, form.
It’s a simple story which allows time to reflect on growing old, on friendships, on what a fulfilled life actually is – without being at all melancholy or sentimental.
It is, however, a film full of boys. Sissy Spacek appears as romantic interest but is unfortunately under-written and under-used, even though her on-screen moments with Redford sparkle. Elisabeth Moss has one scene which moves the plot forward but uses nothing of her skill and talent. There is one other woman who is Wife And Mother in Affleck’s household and without looking it up, I can’t remember even hearing her name.
Those things aside however, this is a hugely enjoyable story full of charm, humour and some good performances from Redford, Spacek and Affleck, and featuring some of the most gentle car-chase sequences you will probably ever see.
Towards the end there’s a collection of flashbacks from the criminal’s past, into which has been inserted original footage of a much younger Redford in his prime (taken from 1966 movie The Chase). It really does feel like this whole section, and the vignette of a youthful Redford, is as much a celebration of Redford’s career as that of his character. Which is why it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he genuinely has called it a day this time.