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The Old Man & the Gun review - sundown on Sundance | reviews, news & interviews

The Old Man & the Gun review - sundown on Sundance

The Old Man & the Gun review - sundown on Sundance

Robert Redford's swansong is a fitting tribute to a movie legend

Star quality: Robert Redford as inveterate thief Forrest Tucker

Despite having enjoyed a prolific few years in which he has appeared in (among others) All Is Lost, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Truth and Our Souls at Night, Robert Redford has said that The Old Man & the Gun will be his last film role. That might have turned out to be a disastrous hostage to fortune, so it’s delightful to report that this is as fine and affectionate a send-off as any movie icon could wish.

Written and directed by David Lowery and based on a New Yorker article by David Grann, it’s the real-life story of career bank-robber and inveterate jailbreaker Forrest Tucker. Or at least a version of it – “this story is mostly true”, as a caption puts it. Tucker was renowned not only for the frequency of his jail-breaks (on one occasion he escaped from San Quentin in a canoe) but for the courtesy and good humour with which he held up countless banks all over the American south-west. Although he possessed a gun, he never actually pointed it at anyone.

Perhaps it’s not too fanciful to imagine this as a kind of time-warped sequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as we follow Redford’s Tucker and his doddering compatriots as they keep on robbing even as the shadows of advancing age and the law enforcement community close in around them. Redford plays Tucker with insouciant cheek and charm, ambling casually into his latest bank and politely asking if he can see the manager, since he’d like to open an account. Merely opening his coat to suggest the presence of a pistol usually does the trick, and he’s out of the building with the cash before anyone else has noticed anything’s amiss. His trademark quirk is an ever-present earpiece through which he listens to police radio transmissions.

Lowery, sharply attuned to the resonances of Redford’s Mount Rushmore-like status but always able to view it with a playfulness that never curdles into sentimentality, has coaxed his star into rekindling some of that golden glow from his great years. He’s done his homework too, using Seventies-style Super 16 film stock and period-specific titles to evoke the look and feel of Redford’s heyday, and dropping in a 1966 clip of the young Redford in Arthur Penn’s The Chase, in which he played a wrongly accused man who breaks out of jail.

At 82, Redford can still command the centre of the frame whether he’s sitting in a diner or hobbling down the street. Some of the most irresistible scenes here are when he’s conducting a playful, teasing romance with Jewel (Sissy Spacek, pictured above with Redford), who unwittingly provides useful cover from the pursuing cops when Tucker stops to help her with her broken-down pickup truck. Over coffee, he casually starts up a flirtatious conversation, and offers a few clues about how he’d rob the joint if it were a bank. Jewel can never tell whether he’s kidding or not, but her look of sheer delight when he unexpectedly kisses her is a wonderful moment. It’s a romance that might have been, if Tucker hadn’t already been “exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

There’s laconic support from Casey Affleck (pictured above left with Tika Sumpter) as detective John Hunt, who’s patiently tracking Tucker’s “Over the Hill Gang” but can’t help enjoying his quarry’s boundless cheek, particularly the moment when Tucker brazenly accosts him in a restaurant men’s room and asks him how he’s getting on with the case. Danny Glover and Tom Waits lend gnarled and wheezy gravitas as Tucker’s co-conspirators, and Waits has a little showpiece with a comic monologue of his own. If you’re pining for a movie steeped in old-school charm and Hollywood mystique, it’s here.

 

Perhaps it’s not too fanciful to imagine this as a kind of time-warped sequel to 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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