The Old Man & the Gun can be viewed in two different ways. One, a simple story of an elderly bank robber who charms his way into looting any bank he sees fit to enter without using an ounce of force, the other, a vehicle entirely built around its star, screen legend Robert Redford.
The film feels as though it slips more into the latter category, yet it still works fine and manages to charm its audience just as much as Redford charms his long line of bank tellers into handing over a bag of money.
Redford plays Forrest Tucker, an aging criminal who still has the skills to rob a bank and walk away scot-free. Well, most of the time, according to his long stints in jail and the same long history of breaking out and continuing his sprees at his own leisure. Tucker has two other accomplices, Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (a scene-stealing Tom Waits), who still share the same enthusiasm as Tucker does.
In an attempt to evade police after a robbery, Tucker pulls over to help a stranded motorist for cover only to find a companion in waiting, Jewel (Sissy Spacek). It doesn’t take long for his carefree charm to work on Jewel, even going as far as telling her what he actually does for a living. This only fuels her interest in him and the two begin to form a bond that may or may not undo his penchant for living life one robbery at a time.
Hot on Tucker and his gang’s trail is investigator John Hunt (Casey Affleck), whose leads take him from one bank employee to the next, all of whom seem to have shared the same kind of non-threatening encounter with the suave criminal.
Director David Lowery clearly has a love for Redford’s golden-era cinematic roles and uses it here to maximum effect. Right down to every camera angle, quick zoom and soundtrack, it feels as though you’re transported back into the 60’s/70’s where Redford’s star was as bright as ever. And at eighty-plus years, he still has the movie-star appeal that would rival any leading actor today. Supporting him ever so gracefully is Sissy Spacek. Having done a lot of TV lately, it’s good to see her back on the big screen in a more pivotal role, which reminds us why she has a career that spans almost as long as Redford’s.
Danny Glover and Tom Waits only appear briefly but are memorable nonetheless. It’s also good to see Casey Affleck take a step back from serious roles and have a little fun here too.
The Old Man & the Gun doesn’t try too hard to be something ground-breaking or wholly original, but ironically that’s what makes it work. It plays and relies heavily upon some old-school charm from its leading man and that makes the film worth the price of admission alone. It’ll be a nostalgic trip for some and a breezy light-hearted affair for others. If this happens to be Robert Redford’s last screen role as rumoured, then it would be a fittingly robust swan song to an iconic career.
In an interview he gave during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, Robert Redford talked about this comedic film being a good note to end on since the actor wanted his “last acting job to be fun.”