‘The Old Man & the Gun’ is a Poignant and Bittersweet Tribute to a Classic Hollywood Star
If legendary actor/director Robert Redford is really hanging it up after 60 years in Hollywood – he announced his retirement in August – his final film, “The Old Man & the Gun,” is just about as perfect of a swan song as any thespian could hope for. With “Old Man,” Redford has come full circle in his career and found his way back to playing the charismatic scoundrel he was known for in classic films like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting.”
At age 82, Redford hasn’t lost any of that appeal. In “Old Man,” writer/director David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon”) has crafted a story that underscores Redford’s talents as someone who can command a screen even when portraying restrained characters. Redford has never been a showy actor, but he’s always been a showstopper.
He does the same in “Old Man” as Forrest Tucker, a notorious career criminal who spent his entire life in and out of jail for robbing banks until his death behind bars in 2004. The year before he passed, The New Yorker ran a profile on Tucker – which Lowery used as the basis for his screenplay – in which he said that during his bank-robbing escapades, he was able to successfully escape from prison a whopping 18 times.
“Old Man” introduces audiences to Forrest in the early 1980s doing what he does best – looting a bank and wearing a fashionable blue suit, brown fedora and wry smile. As most bank tellers and managers can attest while being held up, Forrest was polite and gentlemanly – the ideal target for Austin police officer John Hunt (Casey Affleck) to admire, but also track down.
While on the run, Forrest charms his way into the life of Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a widow who is quickly enamored by his nonchalant demeanor and mysterious air. Redford and Spacek, who surprisingly had never starred in a film together before, are wonderful in the few scenes they share. With the film’s old-school cinematic look and feel, Lowery takes moviegoers back in time to witness the noteworthy pairing as if it happened 40 years ago. It’s romantic, nostalgic and awfully adorable.
In Lowery’s hands, “Old Man” becomes more than just a biopic about an aging outlaw. It’s a tribute to Redford and the lasting effect he has left behind on the film industry. In one of the most poignant scenes of the year, Lowery packages all 18 prison escapes Forrest allegedly pulled off. During one of those escapes, viewers get a glimpse of a young Redford’s face, a scene borrowed from 1966’s “The Chase,” and edited flawlessly into the montage. It’s a bittersweet farewell to Redford and one that Lowery, as he does with the whole film, treats with the highest regard.