25 October 2018 | RforFilm
Though it's stylistic choices are questionable, Robert Redford delivers a good leading performance in The Old Man & the Gun
For what is said to be his final movie, it makes sense to talk about actor Robert Redford. Having been in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and All the President's Men, he has a track record of several classical movies, but has managed to maintain a modern career with All is Lost, the Pete's Dragon remake, and even Captain America: The Winter Soldier. How does he manage to keep a lasting legacy when Hollywood tends to dispose of older actors? Robert Redford's personality represents a certain charisma that's so charming that you feel like you could follow him no matter where. His relaxed, more reserved nature allows him to be seen as a classical and modern face that can be liked by most people.
I think a lot it also comes from how little he reveals about his private life. You get the sense that he has nothing to hide, but nothing to present either. He just seems like one of the few honest faces around Hollywood. Because of this, he's always played good guys, rarely stepping into the role of an antagonist. What's good about his role in The Old Man & the Gun is that he plays a criminal whose constantly on that grey line of good and bad.
In 1981, seventy-year-old Forrest Tucker (played by Robert Redford) is a compulsive robber who has a unique way of cleaning out the bank. Unlike the gun wielding, screaming crooks who threaten to kill everyone, Tucker is more likely to walk in with his team, ask for the manager, and simply tell him or her that the bank is being robbed and will use a gun if necessary. The managers comply as he's never rude, and even charming about it. This puts these people in such a relaxed, clearly thrown off position, that he's usually able to walk out without concern.
According to detective John Hunt (played by Casey Affleck), the man assigned to track Tucker, the old man has been in and out of prison several times, always escaping. Hunt spends his time trying to track Tucker throughout Texas, while maintaining his family life. At the same time, Tucker feels confident enough to not only sit with horse rancher Jewel (played by Sissy Spacek), but to also admit he's a bank robber. She too is charmed by his personality and doesn't object. Tucker continues to rob banks, trying to stay ahead of the police and detective Hunt.
As a final outing, The Old Man & the Gun is a good one to go out on. A good but not great movie. It does take advantage of the kind of person Robert Redford is; a charmer. Though I was hesitant, it turns out with the way Redford portrays Tucker, I could see this person as this plausibly good a robbing places. I am glad they also show that he's not a complete success, as they do show that a lot of what he does is more compulsory then anything. This is the kind of role that needs a Robert Redford. This is the kind of role that I could see Cary Grant or Kirk Douglass could have played if the movie had been made back in the eighties.
Speaking of which, director David Lowery (Pete's Dragon, A Ghost Story) tries hard to emulate the style and look of an eighties movies, with a softer picture and even a grainer look. Though I don't know if this makes the movie bad, I'm not sure why this style was done for this kind of movie. I think it was to have a similar feel for the Redford classic, The Sting.
The reason I bring this up is that it results is more of a "style over substance" movie that I think detracts from the movie's more character driven intention. It's still interesting to hear these characters converse, but something about the way it was made kept me unengaged. I think if the project had been made more traditionally, this may have sold it better, showing that Redford isn't a product of the time. The good news is that much of the style is made up with the material and the actors delivering it.
I'll give this seven old hearing pieces out of ten. Though I'm not sure what could have elevated it as one of the greats of his career, Robert Redford does prove that his charisma can carry a movie fine. It'll defiantly please his fans and those wanting a movie that does feel like an eighties movie; not the cult ones, but the slower, more atmospheric ones like a Robert Altman picture. Give it a watch and see if this was a good one to end on.