The Old Man and the Gun, comedy/drama, rated PG-13, Center for Contemporary Arts, 3.5 chiles
If this in fact proves to be Robert Redford’s farewell to movies, what a lovely way to go. “Never say never,” the actor said in a 2016 Entertainment Weekly interview, “but I pretty well concluded that this would be it for me in terms of acting.”
This one does have the feel of a valedictory. Throughout we see photos and even an old film clip (from The Chase, 1966) of younger editions of the golden boy who has been making movies since his 1962 big screen debut in the Sanders brothers’ War Hunt (which also introduced Sydney Pollack and Tom Skerritt — available on YouTube).
Redford plays Forrest Tucker (no, not the guy from F Troop), a man who has devoted his long life to the art of robbing banks. His story, as an opening credit assures us, is mostly true (adapted by writer-director David Lowery from David Grann’s New Yorker article). Forrest has spent plenty of time behind bars over the years, incarcerated 16 times with as many escapes. We pick him up in 1981, a man in his seventies who has lost none of his love of the game. His MO is exemplary. He walks into a bank, discreetly flashes a gun, asks politely for money, smiles, and leaves.
This review cannot proceed further without bringing in Sissy Spacek. She shares the screen with Redford, and together they ignite a chemistry that could light the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Spacek plays Jewel, a widowed rancher, and when these two sit and banter in a coffee shop booth, you could just watch and listen to them all day.
But you can’t, because there are banks to rob. Forrest sometimes works alone, sometimes with a couple of geriatric buddies, played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits, and the trio becomes known in an enthusiastic press as the Over-the-Hill Gang. In dogged pursuit is an affable, low-key cop with the appropriate name of John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who comes to admire the man he’s tracking.
Willie Sutton famously remarked that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” For Forrest Tucker, it seems to have been as much for the fun of it. It’s not just about making a living, he declares at one point. It’s about living!
So — is this it for the Sundance Kid? Maybe. Maybe not. By last month’s Toronto Film Festival, where the movie premiered, Redford didn’t sound so sure. “I don’t know if it’s the last one,” he admitted.
The door is always open, Bob, and we’ll leave a light on in the window.