“The Old Man and the Gun” is a little offbeat film which leisurely takes its time along with its aging criminal hero for its laid-back fun. Mainly working as a quirky and amusing character study, the movie gives us a number of small but lovely moments to be appreciated for nuances and details, and it also earns some extra poignancy mainly thanks to what will probably be remembered as the last movie performance from its legendary lead actor.
Robert Redford, who recently announced the retirement from his long, illustrious acting career, plays Forrest Tucker, a septuagenarian ex-con who has been quite active in his criminal career despite his old age. In the opening scene which begins at a big bank in Texas, 1981, he has just committed his latest bank robbery, and we later come to know more about how effortlessly he has done his bank robberies for years. All he has to do is walking into a bank alone with a briefcase and, of course, a gun, and we cannot help but amused as watching how smoothly and gently he handles frightened bank employees with his own charm and confidence.
Tucker is sometimes assisted by his two fellow old ex-cons: Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits). When they rob another bank together, they happen to draw the attention of a police detective named John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who is coincidentally at that bank but belatedly realizes what happens shortly after Tucker and his accomplices get away from the crime scene. As delving deeper into the case, Hunt comes to discover a long track of Tucker and his accomplices’ criminal activities around Texas and several other states in US, and he is surely impressed a lot when they commit a bigger bank robbery in Missouri.
Meanwhile, Tucker finds himself in an unexpected romantic situation after accidentally encountering an old woman named Jewel (Sissy Spacek). Although they are total strangers to each other at first, something clicks between them as they spend more time with each other, and he later contacts her not long after his bank robbery in Missouri. Although he is quite frank about how he is not so honest with her from the beginning, Jewel does not mind that at all because she really likes him, and it seems possible that they may live together if she allows him to get a bit closer to her.
While slowly rolling its plot, the screenplay by director/writer David Lowery, which is based on the New Yorker article of the same name written by David Grann in 2003, keeps focusing on its main characters and their interactions instead of going for cheap thrill and excitement, and we accordingly get several enjoyable moments as getting to know more of its main characters. There is an absurd scene where Tucker’s sincere attempt to solve Jewel’s financial problem behind her back is blocked by bank regulations, and we later get a warm, humorous scene where he and Jewel almost get away with their small act of theft before changing their mind. While Hunt initially looks like a rather plain character, the movie pays considerable attention to his personal life, and his wife and their two kids are thankfully free from genre clichés and conventions.
Above all, it is a pleasure to watch how Redford ably carries the film via his undeniably engaging presence on the screen. While his prime period mainly represented by several classic films such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), “The Sting” (1973), and “All the President’s Men” (1976) already passed away many years ago, Redford is still a charismatic movie star as recently shown from his unforgettable solo performance in “All Is Lost” (2013), and he is surely as charming as expected here while having a lot of fun with his character. Even after we come to learn of how incorrigible Tucker has been throughout his criminal life and career, he remains as likable as before thanks to Redford’s amiable performance, and we are not so surprised to see that Hunt comes to like and respect Tucker to some degree while getting to know more of Tucker via his investigation.
Redford is surrounded by a bunch of good performers, who fill their respective roles around Redford as required. Sissy Spacek, a wonderful actress who has seldom disappointed us since she appeared in “Badlands” (1973) and “Carrie” (1976), has a good chemistry with Redford during their several intimate scenes, and she and Redgord are particularly terrific when their characters find themselves swept by their mutual feeling at one point later in the story. While Casey Affleck, who previously collaborated with Lowery in “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (2013) and “A Ghost Story” (2017), is effective in his humble but solid performance, Tika Sumpter holds her own small place as Hunt’s caring wife, and it is certainly nice to see notable performers such as Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Keith Carradine, and John David Washington, who recently rose to prominence thanks to his breakout performance in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” (2018).
After drawing my attention via his second feature film “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, Lowery impressed me more with “Pete’s Dragon” (2016), and then there came “A Ghost Story”, which was one of the best films I saw during 2017. While these three films and “The Old Man and the Gun” look quite different from each other in many aspects, they are all imbued with Lowery’s distinctive talent and sensitivity, and I agree with others that he is indeed one of the most interesting American filmmakers at present.
In conclusion, “The Old Man and the Gun” is funny and entertaining thanks to Lowery’s competent direction and the commendable performances from Redford and several other main cast members, and I had a fairly good time along with my parents and other audiences this afternoon. Maybe he will change his mind later, but Redford presents a fitting swan song here in this film, and that is more than enough for recommendation in my inconsequential opinion.