We’re at the curtain call for one of the greatest actors of his generation. After entertaining us for close to sixty years, Robert Redford announced that The Old Man & the Gun would be his final film role. The new film from director David Lowery, who previously directed Redford in 2016’s Pete’s Dragon and last year’s A Ghost Story (which was one of my favorite films of last year), Old Man is a breezy film, in a good way. Never taking itself seriously, it’s nice to see a film set out and do what it’s trying to do: to simply entertain us and have fun with the material on hand. Even though Redford claims this is his final role, this shows that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank should he decide to “un-retire.”
Based on a mostly true story, as the opening title card tells us, Forrest Tucker (Redford) is a seasoned bank robber who’s been in and out of trouble since the age of thirteen and successfully escaped prison sixteen times. Forrest, even though he’s a criminal, is a proper gentleman and always polite. His latest string of bank robberies along with his accomplices Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), whom the media dubs the Over the Hill Gang, catches the attention of local cop John Hunt (Casey Affleck) who’s hot on their trail. Along the way, Forrest develops a relationship with a widower, Jewel (Sissy Spacek), as he and his team plan for one last big heist.
For what he’s calling his final film performance, Redford absolutely delivers as Forrest, a man who just can’t help himself and loves what he does. Watching him charm up the screen and playing it cool shows why he’s considered one of the best of his time. For the story at hand, written by Lowery and based on a 2003 New Yorker article from David Grann, I enjoyed the depths Redford brought to Forrest. He presents himself as a polite, charming gentleman, but beneath the façade, there’s a sort of loneliness to him. I believe no one else could have pulled it off as great as Redford does. The chemistry that Redford exhibits with everyone, from his accomplices to Jewel to even John, was great. In fact, the storyline between Forrest and Jewel was one of the strongest parts of the film, and for these actors to finally be in a film together, you would have been fooled to think they’ve done this song and dance plenty of times. Lowery also presents Forrest and John as the yin and yang to each other. While Forrest is happy to be doing crimes in the prime of his life, John seems like he’s burnt out from being a policeman. All of the other actors were solid in their roles as well.
With each of the films that he has directed, Lowery has shown a certain growth with the ability to navigate through different genres while still giving each film a style and personality of its own. The jazzy soundtrack from Lowery’s musical collaborator, Daniel Hart, helps move the film along and feels appropriate for the film. The look of the film that Lowery and his DP Joe Anderson went for, with shooting on 16mm and then blowing it up, helps to make the film look like something that took place in the late 70s/early 80s. The montage sequences, particularly showing Forrest robbing banks or how he escaped prison so many times, are spot on and have a certain energy to them. The length of the film, at 93 minutes, was perfect to get in and out, so it never overstays its welcome.
Even though it’s breezy fun, it doesn’t go too in-depth. Since Lowery, at times, feels like he’s focusing more on Forrest, the supporting characters aren’t developed very well. Some of them come and go without any real significance to the story. It would have been fun if there were just a few more scenes with either Glover or Waits’ characters, and to see more interactions with John’s wife Maureen (Tika Sumpter).
Overall, for his final performance, you couldn’t ask for anything more from Redford. This is his film through and through. In this time and age, it’s refreshing to go to a film and just have fun for a couple of hours. The Old Man & the Gun delivers on that front. If this indeed is the end of the road for him, he picked a good film to go out on. And I’m looking forward to whatever Lowery has coming up next. I would recommend checking this film out whenever it comes to your theater.