Robert Redford provides ammo for ‘The Old Man and the Gun’

Posted at 7:50 AM, Sep 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-27 09:50:50-04

Robert Redford produced and stars in “The Old Man and the Gun,” originally billed as his professional swansong, before he began waffling about acting again. If he does officially retire, the 82-year-old actor has chosen to bid farewell with a genial, decidedly low-key story that the filmmakers coyly describe as being “mostly true.”

At its core, “The Old Man” is a classic cat-and-mouse tale, about a trio of bank robbers — dubbed the Over-the-Hill Gang because of their demographic — and a local detective (Casey Affleck), who identifies that a string of robberies in Texas and neighboring states are being carried out by the same merry little band of senior citizens.

The intrigue, however, comes from Redford’s Forest Tucker, who politely waltzes into banks, smiles at managers and tellers, informs them that he’s armed and promptly absconds with their loot.

Introduced pulling off one of these small-scale capers in 1981, Forest pauses during his getaway to help a stalled motorist (Sissy Spacek), and strikes up a relationship with her. Their courtship — as laconic as everything else in the film, which was written and directed by David Lowery — occupies much of the movie, while insight into Forest’s character and history gradually drips out as Affleck’s character uncovers it.

The real lesson underneath it all is to find what you love and do it, which, in Forest’s case, just happens to involve robbing banks. There’s a bit more to it than that, but mostly, the film exists as a showcase for Redford, who is perfectly content playing a craggy old cowboy with a twinkle in his eye, cleverly augmented with a few flashbacks using clips from his matinee-idol days.

Perhaps foremost, “The Old Man” is notable — beyond the sentimentality associated with Redford’s original announcement — for the audacity of building a movie around a septuagenarian criminal at all. Then again, the hunger for content has dealt a few well-deserved blows to Hollywood’s entrenched ageism habit, if only because movie stars don’t grow on trees.

It’s difficult to argue that “The Old Man and the Gun” amounts to Redford going out in a blaze of glory, given what an understated, slow-moving exercise the movie is. But to borrow that cowboy analogy, if the actor, producer and activist had to pick something upon which to hang up his spurs or ride into the sunset, he easily could have selected a worse horse than this one.

“The Old Man and the Gun” premieres Sept. 28 in the U.S. It’s rated PG-13.