Film review: The Old Man & The Gun shows charismatic Robert Redford at his best
Robert Redford's swansong The Old Man & The Gun is a gentle tale of an old-time bank robber that serves as a reminder of why the 82-year-old star has been setting hearts aflutter on screen for more than half a century, writes Damon Smith
ROBERT Redford makes his final screen appearance before retirement in David Lowery's gently paced crime caper – a (mostly) true story, which is also an unabashed valentine to the charismatic leading man.
Based on a 2003 article of the same title in The New Yorker magazine, The Old Man & The Gun possesses a simple, old-fashioned charm epitomised by the 82-year-old star at the film's emotionally molten centre.
Photographed in lustrous close-up, Redford beguiles us with each glance into camera as real-life bank robber Forrest Tucker, who ran rings around the authorities and escaped from San Quentin State Prison in a canoe.
Lowery pays homage to his star by lovingly reappropriating footage from Redford's 1966 picture The Chase as one of these close brushes with the law.
"Looking sharp will take you a long, long way," coos Forrest at one point.
Redford could almost be reflecting on his own ascent into the pantheon of well-heeled Hollywood greats in such classics as Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, The Sting, All The President's Men and Out Of Africa.
In Lowery's picture, he discharges that star wattage one final time in swoonsome exchanges with fellow Oscar winner Sissy Spacey. Dialogue between the couple is light and playful, kindling a smouldering on-screen partnership that casts a satisfying glow over every frame.
The film concentrates on events in 1981 when Forrest pulls off a series of bank robberies, often with ageing associates Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits).
"He had a gun... and also, he was sort of a gentleman," one Dallas bank employee confesses to police after Forrest casually 'withdraws' a large amount of bills from tellers' drawers.
During the getaway from one hold-up, Forrest evades police by stopping to help a stranded motorist called Jewel (Sissy Spacek). Sparks of attraction fly over a cup of coffee.
Meanwhile, Texas detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) becomes fascinated by Forrest's far from illustrious career on the wrong side of the law and is secretly relieved that the old timer is always one step ahead of the police.
"I'm sorry you didn't catch him," commiserates John's wife Maureen (Tika Sumpter).
"I'm not," he responds tenderly.
The Old Man & The Gun is the cinematic equivalent of a warm hug: comforting, heartfelt and undeniably pleasurable in the moment.
Lowery's script stages a couple of tense robberies with aplomb but characterisation always takes priority, and there is a lovely scene of verbal to-and-fro between Forrest and John in the corridor of a roadside diner.
Redford remind us why he has been setting hearts aflutter on screen for more than 55 years and Affleck is an appealing sparring partner in a game of cat and mouse where everyone, including us, wins.
THE OLD MAN & THE GUN (12A, 93 mins) Drama/Romance. Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Tika Sumpter, Danny Glover, Tom Waits. Director: David Lowery.
Released: December 7 (UK & Ireland)