There are movie stars, and there are movie stars.
It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense that Robert Redford would be the title character in a movie called The Old Man & the Gun, but here we are: Redford is now 82 years old, and he’s said this may be his last acting role. He’s been on our screens for nearly 60 years, and as big a name as there is in the world for about 50 of those. And if this is it for him, well, we have a lot to celebrate.
Redford plays real-life bank robber Forrest Tucker in the early 1980s, when, as a man in his 60s, he led what was referred to as the “Over The Hill Gang,” a group of men getting on in years who were still knocking off banks across the country. As Max Fischer teaches us in Wes Anderson’s masterpiece Rushmore, “you’ve just gotta find something you love to do, and then do it for the rest of your life.” For Max, that was going to Rushmore. For Forrest, it’s robbing banks.
There’s not a lot of reason to recount the plot of this movie other than to say it’s Redford robbing banks, and Casey Affleck’s police detective pursuing him (to some extent), and Redford meeting Sissy Spacek along the way. It’s more important to note that, as time passes us by, a lot of what we’re left with is our memories, and if anything, The Old Man & the Gun helps us remember. It helps us remember what a wonder Redford has been for us to watch for all these years. What an absolute treasure Sissy Spacek is. That seeing Danny Glover these days is like putting on a warm pair of socks. That there’s something magical about listening to Tom Waits tell a slightly off-color story with a shaggy dog ending.
The Old Man & the Gun is simply, purely joyful. It’s not an ecstatic joy, but it’s a deeply comfortable one. The main thing people seemed to remember about Forrest Tucker is that, as he was robbing banks, he always seemed to have a smile. And from the first frame of this movie until the end of the closing credits, so do we.