Forrest Tucker’s life of easygoing deception includes telling the woman he’s courting that he’s a salesman. In a way he is. Forrest (Robert Redford) is selling the most pleasant experience imaginable for the bank tellers he’s robbing. He does so with a calm and reassuring demeanor and the occasional megawatt movie star smile. Tucker was a real man who spent his decades doing what he excelled at. He was noted for being a charmer and Redford (in what might be his final role) certainly knows how to play that.
The Old Man & The Gun is a testament to Redford’s decades of doing what he’s excellent at. Tucker is an outlaw and that moniker holds true for the legend playing him. He’s played other outlaws and the actor that’s championed independent film fits that description.
Forrest’s biggest claim to fame was his ability to break out of prisons (close to 20 times). David Lowery’s feature concentrates more on what put him in the slammer in the first place across Texas and other states. We meet him on a work day as he ambles into a local branch in the early 1980s. He calmly and appealingly tells the teller that he’ll be making an unauthorized withdrawal. The police who interview his marks seem to all say the same things… seemed like a nice guy.
That doesn’t matter much to detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck, a frequent Lowery contributor). He’s bound and determined to catch Forrest and his aging two colleagues (Tom Waits and Danny Glover). Hunt could be at a disadvantage. He seems worn down by his job. Forrest, even at his advancing age, still seems to relish it.
The heart of Gun involves Forrest meeting Texas farmer and widow Jewel (Sissy Spacek). Their potential romance gives him a bit of pause. He’s never ridden a horse. She’s got three of them on her property. It’s apparently on his to-do list. It would seem a life enjoying his lifted money on the farmland might be too. Or perhaps not as his job genuinely brings him the greatest joy.
Watching Redford and Spacek together gives us joy. They’re dynamite together. The stylish flair employed by its director is joyous to witness. The same adjective describes listening to Tom Waits giving a monologue about Christmas in his childhood. On the other hand, Affleck’s role isn’t really fleshed out. The screenplay attempts to give him some back story with his wife (Tika Sumpter) and kids, but it never really takes form. There’s also the matter of the audience not really wanting Hunt to catch his likable prey.
This is ultimately Redford’s show. If this is his curtain call, it’s a relaxed and awfully entertaining one. We’re reminded of the star’s former works in old clips toward the end and I found it emotionally gratifying. I finished The Old Man & The Gun sporting the same smile that its subject greets those tellers.
***1/2 (out of four)