The Old Man & the Gun is based on the true-life story of Forrest Tucker, a career criminal who was passionate about two things: robbing banks and escaping from prison.
Even in his late 70s, when Tucker was enjoying a peaceful retirement with his loving third wife, he could not resist going on a final bank-robbing spree.
He got caught, of course, but his incorrigible spirit caught the interest of writer David Grann, who visited him in jail and wrote an appealing piece in the New Yorker about the charming old man who impressed his victims with his gentlemanly manner.
Robert Redford, himself an aging charmer (he was 82 in August), loved Grann’s story and decided to make a film about Tucker.
He produced The Old Man & the Gun, of course with himself as the star, and enlisted director David Lowery to co-write the script and direct the film.
With Redford’s star power and Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck in the cast, the film was bound to be a winner.
Set in the ‘80s, it’s a surprisingly easy-going movie for one which focusses on a serial bank robber. There are no shoot-outs, no violence, no brutality.
Redford is in his element as the calm professional thief who takes pride in relieving his victims of the bank’s cash without using force or unpleasantness.
“I like you, I like you a lot, and I wouldn’t want you to get hurt,” he tells a frightened teller.
In a car chase early in the film, while he is being pursued by a line of screaming police vehicles, he sees Sissy Spasek on the edge of the road, having trouble with her car.
He stops and offers to help – and while the police cars go roaring past he fixes her car and charms her into seeing him again.
She and Redford have a wonderful rapport. She thinks he’s kidding when he tells her he works as a bank robber and the pair have a lovely romance. Even when he gets caught and goes to jail, she sticks by him.
One of the many lawmen who cross Tucker’s path questions his choice of a career. “There must be a better way to make a living,” he suggests.
“I’m not talking about making a living, “ says Tucket. “I’m talking about living.”
Casey Affleck plays John Hunt, the Texas detective who keeps after Tucker and eventually nails him, but can’t help liking the recalcitrant old crim.
The film has numerous flashbacks – there were plenty of photos from Redford’s long movie career to choose from – showing Tucker’s varied exploits in escaping from one prison after another.
He even escaped briefly from Alcatraz – the supposedly escape-proof prison on an island off San Francisco – by making a canoe from materials he salvaged from the workshop. Sadly the canoe sank after being swamped by a wave and Tucker was quickly recaptured.
The Old Man & the Sea is not one of Redford’s greatest films, but it is memorable because the charismatic actor says it will be his last. Let’s hope he changes his mind.
The Old Man & the Gun opens on Thursday, November 15 at the Windsor Cinema and Luna Leederville.
Watch the trailer…