In what was originally pitched as his final film performance, Robert Redford plays Forrest Tucker, a career criminal who has successfully escaped from prison on 16 separate occasions and gets his kicks robbing banks well into his late '60s. He's charming, a snazzy dresser and exudes a level of cool confidence that goes unmatched by everyone around him. Tucker feels like a love letter to Robert Redford's career and a character that writer-director David Lowery is submitting to add to the canon of all-time great anti-heroes, complete with a retro wash of costuming, music and cinematography upping the "cool" factor.
Unfortunately, The Old Man & The Gun barely portrays Tucker with ambivalence, and therefore tells a story that could be aptly named Charming White Crime: The Movie. It will surely do well with the Academy come Oscar season as the predominately white male voting pool will absolutely relate to Redford's portrayal as some sort of life goal. The entire film hinges on Redford's performance, a career best for him, but this film presented as an ode to living life to the fullest regardless of age is hard to enjoy when the titular character is a completely unchecked asshole put on a pedestal because he's "nice." The movie opens area-wide on Friday.
Easy comparisons can be drawn to the Hanks/DiCaprio flick, Catch Me If You Can, but the major difference between the two is that DiCaprio's Frank Abagnale Jr. eventually had to own up to his life of crime and learn from it, while Tucker never does. We're provided a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene of Tucker's daughter (a wasted role for Elisabeth Moss) explaining how he abandoned his family for a life of crime, a family Tucker denies even exists in one of his earliest scenes with Sissy Spacek, the delightfully sweet ranch-owner who serves solely as a vehicle to humanize Tucker as more than just a bad guy who robs banks.
It's a shame because Spacek's performance as Jewel is excellent. She genuinely captures what it means to be "young at heart" with her blushing smiles that resemble that of a high school girl being dropped off after a first date. It would have been nice to have moments getting to know Jewel as someone more than just the object of Tucker's affection.
This wouldn't be a comedic pseudo-heist movie without a case-closing cop, and the forever problematic Casey Affleck plays this understated role with ease, but he is outshined by the secondary players. Tucker's co-conspirators, the "Over the Hill Gang," (played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits) serve as the perfect contrasts to Tucker's charming criminal, and Waits delivers the best lines of the entire film.
Ultimately, The Old Man & The Gun serves best as an ode to the career of Robert Redford, and watching it with this intention will make the film the most enjoyable. It's a calm and calculated heist film with small bursts of levity, but it fails to acknowledge the bleak realities left in the wake of our leading man's decisions.