A look at The Old Man And The Gun (M)
For a film buff who’s been a bit of a Robert Redford fan down the decades it was something of a no-brainer to arrange to see him in his last ever screen appearance. After all he’s now 82 and those sparkling performances in The Sting and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid are now decades and decades old. Even so, there’s plenty of material to work on in the re-telling of the true story of Forrest Tucker, the gentlemanly bank robber in a suit, who never actually waves his stick-up gun around.
Set in the early 1980s when Tucker was actually past the mandatory retirement age director David Lowery follows Forrest as he gets going on a new set of heists. Joining him are two old crims (Danny Glover and Tom Waits) and they form what becomes known to police and crime reporters as the Over-The-Hill gang. They’re clearly very difficult to track down so the task falls to a dogged, if a bit weary, police detective played by Casey Afleck.
After one successful heist where he’s switched cars Tucker stops to assist a woman whose vehicle bonnet is up, down the highway from the town and the bank. The uplifted bonnet forms a perfect shield as police cars zoom past and inevitably Tucker and horse trainer Jewel (Sissy Spacek) team up after the car’s fixed and they head to Jewel’s idyllic rural retreat.
It takes quite a long time before Forrest reveals the truth about what he does for a living.
Jewel’s uncertain about how she should respond but his charm – this is Robert Redford, remember – and sparkle wins her over. And the gentleman thief, and his crew, stake out more banks. Director Lowery is keen to show us how the three-man gang case the banks they’re about to rob, even going to the point where, binoculars in hand, Tucker is perched high-up on a building across the street from the latest target.
There is where everything slows down. Nothing much happens while the reconnoitring is going on, the dogged detective has to deal with some clunky FBI operatives trying to remove him to the back bench and there’s a lot of horse riding and horse feeding going on out at Jewel’s farm.
Finally Forrest gets going again. He goes solo in a quartet of heists finishing off one even though a terrified bank clerk, on her first day in the job, is almost unable to load wads of banknotes into the proffered briefcase.
And he does eventually end up in the can with Tucker giving some solace to the distraught Jewel.
During visiting hours he slips a battered set of notes across to her. In it we can see where’s he’s outlined how he arranged, and then carried out, his 16 successful escapes from detention. The No. 17 has been left blank. All this is accurate as Tucker was one of the greatest escape artists in US history.
Director Lowery has stayed true to a lot of the real story even if it gets a bit tired through the middle stages. Still at only 93 minutes in length it provided a perfect opportunity to see Reford in his stated last on-screen appearance.