Although it’s a fitting swan song for the legendary acting career of Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun hardly seems an appropriate title. After all, even at 82, Redford has never resembled an old man.
The Oscar-winning icon, who recently hinted at his retirement in front of the camera, nevertheless gets one more chance to showcase his debonair charm in this low-key crime drama from Dallas filmmaker David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon). He effortlessly generates sympathy for a rather unscrupulous rogue.
During a lovely opening sequence, we first glimpse Redford through extreme closeups of the wrinkles around his eyes, the gray sideburns that accentuate his trademark red hair, and other features of, yes, an older man. He plays Forrest Tucker, a career bank robber based in Fort Worth who’s escaped from prisons around the country more than a dozen times.
After successfully breaking out of San Quentin at age 70 during the early 1980s, he remains dedicated to his craft. He recruits some fellow seniors (played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits) and spearheads a series of heists throughout the Midwest — his criminal actions always belying his dapper appearance and impeccable manners. “He was also sort of a gentleman,” one bank manager explains to investigators.
That affable nature doesn’t sway a Texas detective (Casey Affleck) who becomes determined to bring Forrest to justice. Meanwhile, Forrest considers settling down with a small-town widow (Sissy Spacek) who eventually becomes enchanted by his unassuming bad-boy persona.
Lowery’s sharply observed screenplay, inspired by a true story chronicled in a New Yorker article, is leisurely paced and character-driven, gradually revealing details about Forrest’s background and potential motives while navigating some tricky emotional territory for viewers.
While the entire ensemble is solid, the focus will be on Redford, and rightly so. He portrays an aging rebel whose external bravado and mischief conceals internal feelings of regret and isolation as he confronts mortality. The focus is more on quiet, contemplative moments than elaborate capers.
Lowery’s gritty throwback visuals, using some Cowtown locales, capture time and place in a film whose overall impact is modest. However, The Old Man and the Gun achieves a bittersweet poignancy not because we’ll miss Redford — which we will anyway — but because we’ll miss Forrest.
David Lowery will attend a Q&A following a screening at 7:35 p.m. Saturday at The Magnolia.