The Old Man and The Gun is a lighthearted, “mostly true” tale about a charismatic elderly bank robber who swindles his way into the hearts of people (including the audience).
It has been billed as Robert Redford’s swan song into retirement from acting, although recent reports suggest it may not be –but why take the chance of possibly missing his final role?
Redford plays Forrest Tucker, a real-life career criminal who has spent much of his life in prison, and has escaped from jail 16 times over the years. At 70, he makes an audacious escape from San Quentin, and quickly returns to his crime of choice –robbing banks.
In Texas, circa 1981, Forrest, now well into his seventies, executes another bank robbery with the assistance of his fellow senior citizen criminals Teddy (Danny Glover) and Walter (Tom Waits). Having successfully evaded the police, Forrest spots an older woman stranded on the highway and stops to help. The woman is Jewel (Sissy Spacek) and Forrest and Jewel quickly spark up a flirtatious connection and continue their courtship over the months that follow. At first Jewel doesn’t believe Forrest when he tells her what he does for a “living,” but then has to accept that even love isn’t going to keep him from his criminal ways.
Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) begins pursuit of the law-breaking septuagenarian who literally robbed the Texas bank right under his nose (Hunt was in the bank at the time). John discovers that this is only the latest in a string of heists across multiple states by the same smiling “gentleman bandit” whom most victims describe as being unfailingly polite and charming. As the detective and his team close in on Forrest and his Over-The-Hill gang, John finds a sense of reverence for the bank robber and begins to wonder if he wants to catch Forrest at all. And, as the audience, you know you really shouldn’t be cheering for Forrest even though you find yourself doing just that.
The Old Man and The Gun works both as a cheery crime romp and an enlightening memoir about Forrest Tucker’s exploits as not only a bank robber, but a legend in the art of escaping prison. The movie is shot in 16mm giving it an “old-fashioned” quality, the warm, grainy glow of the 1970s and ’80s when it’s set.
Robert Redford is still defining movie-star magnetism at 82, and the chemistry between Redford and Sissy Spacek is a sight to behold. The movie’s also loaded with lauded actors in minor roles and interesting factoids about Forrest’s life.
The Old Man and The Gun is our last Film Society movie before the New Year and shows at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Salmar Classic.