Every bit as fitting a stage exit for Redford as Lucky was for Harry Dean Stanton, The Old Man and the Gun sees the newly announced retiree back in his Cool Hand Luke or Sundance Kid phase, playing an outlaw who robs banks almost out of addiction.
Redford plays Forest Tucker, a septuagenarian Gentleman thief who lived his entire life on the run and committed a string of armed robberies across the Midwest in the early 80s. Redford projects his usual wily, old school devil-may-care charm, but mixed with just a dash of melancholy. He plays a man who is coming to the end of his very unconventional life and isn't quite sure how he feels about the way he has lived, or if he might finally be able to live another way or would ever want to. The presence of Sissy Spacek as his love interest Jewel, along with the beautiful, peaceable mid-west scenery, may call to mind Badlands, but the similarities to that odious film end there. This film may have its pretentions but it has heart, and there's a quiet love projected through every character.
The direction, including the performances and grainy Super 16mm cinematography, is impressionistic and unshowy, yet there are occasional glimpses of a touch of mainstream swagger that play as little flourishes of the kind displayed by our antihero. These moments almost play as winks to the camera, and moments that clearly play with the truth in a way that recalls the other great unconventional indie heist movie this year, American Animals, which as the name implies, shares this films Americana leanings, creative editing and playful dissection of ‘based-on-a-true-story’ tropes.
The film reunites director David Lowery and his regular muse Casey Affleck from Ain't them Bodies Saints and A Ghost Story, and the latter's role here as a wan, slightly amused detective on Tucker's trail, although based on a real person (he has a cameo) fits him like a glove. There are also some enjoyable guest appearances from indie old hand Tom Waits, Danny Glover and Elizabeth Moss who consistently gives the best back of what's given to her, having been the best part of The Seagull and The Square already this year.
The Old Man and the Gun, even in its very title, is unashamedly nostalgic and down to earth, resulting in a humble, hugely pleasant and watchable farewell to an era of cinema that films like this prove isn't quite bygone yet.