Announcing his retirement from acting earlier this summer, veteran Hollywood actor Robert Redford hinted that his latest film The Old Man and The Gun could well be his last big screen role in what has been a remarkably fruitful and hugely successful career, spanning decades and hundreds of iconic appearances on and off-screen.
Directed by David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story) and based on David Grann’s New Yorker article of the same name, The Old Man and The Gun offers a slow-burning semi-comedic crime caper which pits octogenarian Redford against Casey Affleck in a story about a recidivist prison escape artist and the young police detective on his hot pursuit.
At the age of 70, career criminal Forrest Tucker (Redford) makes an audacious escape from San Quentin prison. Joined by long-time friends and partners in crime Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), the trio go on to conduct an astonishing string of bank robberies that left the authorities in a state of confusion and went on to earn them the nickname of The Over The Hill gang. Captivated by Tucker’s seemingly nonchalant approach to crime and by the old man’s rather charming demeanour, rookie detective John Hunt (Affleck) becomes obsessed with finding him and putting him behind bars, but things start to get complicated when Hunt finds himself falling for the old man’s charm.
Lowery, whose last film A Ghost Story presented a heartbreaking and decidedly bleak study in grief and loss, here opts for a much more lighthearted tone in order to tell this simple, yet hugely engaging story. Concentrating the bulk of the narrative on the friendly dynamic between Redford and Affleck’s characters, Lowery does a great job in making us root for both men who by right should be natural enemies, but who despite their differences find mutual respect for each other.
Redford gives an outstanding and wonderfully playful performance. He offers Tucker as calculating, yet hugely likeable. For his part, Affleck shines in yet another great role, in one of his most likeable roles to date. Elsewhere, Sissy Spacek gives a measured and understated performance as Tucker’s unsuspecting love interest Jewel, a lonely who can’t help but fall for the old criminal’s charms even after learning of his true nature.
Aesthetically, Lowery and cinematographer Joe Anderson manage to capture the 80s era perfectly in a deliberately grainy and low resolution quality, a trend which seems to have taken on a whole new dimension of late. Thematically, Redford goes out, not with a bang, but with commendably executed and understated narrative which serves to highlight the veteran actor’s range and commitment to character acting even in his 80s.