MovieMonday: The Old Man and the Gun

Here we have a film made by and for people who love Robert Redford.

Ostensibly it is about a 73-year-old Forrest  Tucker (Redford) who’s a lifelong crook — bank robber, mostly — and a 16-time prison escapee.  The twist is that he’s really nice.  A gentleman crook, if you will.

If anybody can pull off a role like this, it’s Redford, whose acting career stretches back to the 1960s.  He’s still movie-star handsome at 82 with a craggy face and suspiciously good hair.  As Tucker, he looks dashing in jackets and slacks; you can take him anywhere.

When Texas detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) senses a trend in recent heists and documents it, he identifies Tucker and his two pals (Danny Glover and Tom Waits) as the likely suspects.  The trio are dubbed the Over the Hill Gang.

Hunt researches Tucker and finds a man who says, “He always had a gun with him, but if you told me that he had never fired it once in his his life, I’d believe it.”

He finds Tucker’s daughter, who never knew her dad but whose abandoned mother “loved him till the day she died.”

Then there are the robberies.  During one, a bank teller starts to cry as she stuffs cash into Tucker’s briefcase.

“Cheer up!” Tucker says.

When she tells him it’s her first day on the job, he consoles her.   “There’s a first time for everything.  Chin up.  You’re doing a great job!”

Along the way, Tucker courts a ranch widow, Jewel (Sissy Spacek), and they talk about the meaning of life over coffee and pie at a diner and as they sit in wooden chairs on the front porch of her house.

In short, everybody likes the guy.  Heck — what’s a million bucks of theft against a winning personality?

There actually was a Forrest Tucker, who stole his first bicycle at 13 and made his first prison break two years later after a conviction for car theft, establishing a pattern that continued through his life.  A New Yorker article by David Grann was the source material for the movie, which shifts some of the timeline but is essentially true to the story.

The acting here calls to mind some of the Redford’s previous work, particularly his two good-natured buddy-outlaw films with Paul Newman in 1969 and 1973.  But those were made a long time ago. I wasn’t surprised to find that I was the youngest person in the theater when I saw the movie.

The film itself is nicely done and works because Redford is a compelling enough actor to keep an audience interested as he charms everyone he meets, including the detective who pursues him.  Still, the action is thin and there is barely enough of it to fill the movie’s economical 93-minute running time.

If you’re a Robert Redford fan, by all means go.

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