Portrait of a romantic outlaw

REVIEW / CRIME BIOPIC

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN (PG13)

94 minutes/Opens today/3.5 stars

The story: Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is in his 70s, but is in no hurry to slow down his bank-robbing career. His victims call him a gentleman because of his unhurried, polite manner. Police detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is intrigued by Tucker’s confidence and takes a personal stake in the case. Tucker meets Jewel (Sissy Spacek) and tries to woo her without revealing his double life. Based on a true story.

This is the film that Redford has picked to close his career and it is a fitting one. This is a story of a senior who has done what he loved for most of his life.

Tucker’s bank-robbing job requires him to pretend to be someone else to win the trust of his target. And very much like an actor, his skill in maintaining a front is crucial to the success of the enterprise.

It is hard to watch this movie without feeling a good amount of goodwill for the 82-year-old Redford, and to separate the qualities one attaches to the actor from those of the movie. Luckily, the tone of the biopic resembles the man himself: Easy-going, affectionate, confident, with just a streak of the anti-establishment.

Redford’s Tucker ambles in and out of banks he robs; his voice rises barely above a murmur when he makes his polite demands. He takes only the cash at hand and the only implication of violence is a brief flash of a pistol as he opens his jacket.

Award-winning indie director David Lowery puts a deliberate pace – some might argue it’s slow – into his work, which suits this material perfectly. His last film, A Ghost Story (2017, also starring Affleck), was a poetic take on the passage of time.

In this film, Tucker, like the ethereal being in Lowery’s previous work, is a creature out of sync with the current time.

Tucker is a romantic outlaw, not from a previous decade, but a past century. He lives outside of society. His brushes with the law result in only a temporary reckoning with society before the expert jailbreaker is free again.

Affleck and Spacek play supporting characters that are mostly there to reflect Tucker’s character of the vagabond, but they hold their own as people who poke holes in Tucker’s notions about the man he thinks he is.

This gentle portrait of a man who seems to have wandered out of the Old West is not quite a western, but with its ruminations about what it means to be truly free, it comes close and makes a fitting postscript to one of Redford’s best-loved films, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969).

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