There are parallels between actor Robert Redford and Forrest Tucker, the real-life career criminal who robbed banks until the ripe old age of 79, and who Redford portrays in his newest film. For one, they’re both old and respectable dudes who did what they loved throughout his career. Old Man & the Gun is Redford’s much-ballyhooed final film, and it’s a fitting send-off for the end of a Hollywood legend’s long career.
The movie is fittingly about the end of Tucker’s career and his relationship with a woman named Jewel (Sissy Spacek). He’s a handsome, charming guy who cracks a delicious smile while revealing the big iron tucked in his overcoat. There’s also the cop John Hunt (Casey Affleck) tasked with catching Tucker and his cohorts, who are played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits. Affleck struggles with his respect for Tucker’s passion and suavity. Unsurprisingly, banks are robbed and consequences ensue, but since the principal characters are old, the fallout doesn’t seem too awful.
The relationships between these characters feels natural. Redford and Spacek’s chemistry is spot-on, with romantic moments between them subtle and charming, while Affleck and Redford’s dynamic is compelling—almost like a friendship instead of a cat-and-mouse rivalry. There’s a distinct nostalgic tone that remarkably doesn’t venture too far into the cultural context of the time; the music is upbeat and smooth, drawing you into the 1980s and setting the scene, but never shoving the pop culture of the day down your throat.
Yet the plot isn’t particularly cohesive, nor are there many moments of suspense. In one scene, Tucker’s in Dallas, then he’s in St. Louis and then he’s right back in Dallas again. Similarly, Hunt’s struggle with his respect for Tucker versus his professional obligation to catch a criminal isn’t as developed as it should be. Furthermore, it’s made obvious that Tucker’s going to get caught at some point, and his attempts at avoiding capture seem pointless as a result—this defuses much of the potential tension.
Towards the end, Redford sits on a horse wearing a thick poncho and a wide-brimmed hat. On the horizon, cop cars roll by as the night turns to dawn. Tucker is, in the end, still a cowboy, but it’s time for him to ride off into the sunrise. Perhaps that is melodramatic, but The Old Man & the Gun is swathed in sentiment, and is every bit about Redford as it is Tucker.
+ Excellent acting, a tear-jerking send off to Redford's career
– Plot could use some development.
The Old Man & the Gun Directed by David Lowery
With Redford, Spacek and Affleck
Center for Contemporary Arts, PG-13, 93 min.