The emphasis is on charm, especially Redford’s, and he has plenty of it.
Will “The Old Man & the Gun” mark Robert Redford’s acting swan song?
Could be, though the 82-year-old actor has reportedly hedged on his previous announcement.
Regardless, the “mostly true” crime comedy, in which Redford plays an elderly bank robber, would make an appropriate adieu.
Not because it’s special. Written and directed by David Lowery (last year’s “A Ghost Story”), it doesn’t rank with the actor’s best work – “All the President’s Men,” “The Way We Were,” "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," the underrated 1974 version of “The Great Gatsby.” But it deals with aging, with nearing the end of one’s life, with continuing to follow your passion as much as realistically possible no matter how old you are.
Maybe this last bit has made Redford rethink this retirement business.
In “Old Man,” Redford plays Forrest Tucker – not the star of “F Troop” but an amiable crook of the same name. Tucker love robbing banks, and he has a history of pulling off heists, getting caught, getting incarcerated, escaping, and starting the process all over again. He just can’t help himself.
It’s 1981, and Tucker, now well into his 70s, pulls off a string of robberies over five states (including Texas and Oklahoma) with his fellow geezers Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits, who steals every scene he’s in).
He’s a gentleman bandit – tellers remark to police how polite he is. In one funny scene, he cheerfully hands over a note giving the bad news to a teller, a young woman who starts crying and tells him it’s her first day. “Chin up,” he tells her as she starts gathering the cash for him. “You’re doing a great job.”
John Hunt (Casey Affleck), a cop who was in a bank during one of the robberies but didn’t know it was going on, is on his trail. But while dodging Hunt and other lawmen, Tucker still manages to romance a new acquaintance named Jewel (Sissy Spacek).
The emphasis throughout is on charm, especially Redford’s, and he has plenty of it. And the film does has a valedictory feel to it, with nods to some of his earlier films, including a clip of him as an escaped con in 1966’s “The Chase.”
A look at that unlined face that made him a sex symbol more than 50 years ago, after seeing his weathered current appearance, provides a poignant emphasis on the passage of time.
But Redford’s cheerful countenance as the older Tucker and the way the character goes about his life suggest aging isn’t such a bad thing, after all.