Simon Dillon reviews Robert Redford's swansong.

The Old Man And The Gun

Onscreen text at the start of The Old Man & The Gun informs us that "This story is also, mostly, true". Deliberately echoing the "Most of what follows is true" text that opens Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kind, the film that made Robert Redford a superstar, perhaps this is intended to bring Redford's career full circle, with another film supposedly based on fact about a bank robber. The fact that Redford has claimed this will be his final acting role only underscores that idea, and quite honestly if it is true, then The Old Man & the Gun is a fine role to go out on.

Set in the early 1980s, the film follows career criminal Forest Tucker (Redford), whose habit of holding up banks in a very "gentlemanly" way earned him a certain notoriety. With his fellow gang members Waller (Tom Waits) and Teddy (Danny Glover), Forest made several petty scores. At the same time, disillusioned cop John Hunt (Casey Affleck) became determined to track him down, dubbing Forest's outfit the "Over the Hill gang", in view of their ages.

Forest's relationship with widow Jewel (Sissy Spacek) forms the touching heart of the story. Director David Lowery (who made the astonishing A Ghost Story last year) is smart enough to downplay the thriller aspect in favour of the chemistry between his two leads, fully aware of the baggage Redford carries as an actor and channelling it very astutely. It goes without saying that the resultant performances are terrific. Lowery and his cinematographer Joe Anderson give the film a warm, nostalgic haze by shooting on Super 16mm, further enhancing the melancholic, bittersweet themes of growing older but not necessarily wiser.

Forest's monomania in spending his life in an endless cycle of stealing, getting sent to prison and then escaping is psychologically fascinating, but the film rarely delves very deeply into the why. Instead it simply encourages its audience to enjoy Robert Redford's immense charm, as wonderful here as he was as Butch Cassidy, all those years ago. The pace is slow and possibly unlikely to play well with impatient viewers used to more high-octane heist thrills. Nonetheless, this is an elegiac and memorable film that, should it really prove the swansong Redford claims it is, brings the curtain down on a splendid acting career. CR

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