PLOT A career criminal and escape artist continues his ways even into his 70s. Based on a true story.
CAST Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck
RATED R (language and some bloodshed)
PLAYING AT Regal Union Square Stadium 14, City Cinemas 123 and The Landmark at 57 West, Manhattan. .
BOTTOM LINE Funny, bittersweet film makes a suitable sendoff for the retiring Redford.
Nearly 50 years after his breakout role as a handsome young outlaw in 1969’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Robert Redford marks what he has said will be his final acting role as a handsome elderly outlaw in “The Old Man & the Gun.” Written and directed by David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon”), it’s a fitting bon voyage, a gentle comedy-drama with wry humor and a sunset-colored wistful streak. It’s also the story of a man whose smarts and charm made him a success in a highly rarefied field — as good a description of Redford as any.
Redford plays Forrest Tucker, a real-life career criminal whose 2003 New Yorker profile provides the film’s basis. When we meet Tucker, in the early 1980s, he’s in his late 70s, robbing a Texas bank while wearing a royal-blue suit and a hearing-aid that’s actually a police scanner. After making his getaway (at senior-citizen speed), Tucker feels confident enough to stop for a stranded motorist -- a wonderful Sissy Spacek as the fictional Jewel — and take her to a local diner.
Though it arrives early, this little dinner-date is the film’s clincher. Redford’s Tucker is a smoothie through and through: bold but not bossy, ladling on the old-school gallantry with just a touch of aw-shucks sweetness. (Who but Redford could still do boyish at 82?) Within minutes Jewel is under his spell, and so are we.
If Tucker is all fizz and high spirits, then Det. John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is bitters and vinegar. When this beaten-down 40-year-old cop realizes his local bank has been robbed — while he was standing in it — Hunt makes it his mission to identify Tucker and bring him in. The more Hunt learns about this upbeat criminal with a deep love for his craft, the more irked he becomes. Meanwhile, Tucker knocks over bank after bank with his eccentric helpmates, Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (a scene-stealing Tom Waits).
At one point, Tucker makes a list of 16 prisons he’s escaped from, with No. 17 left tantalizingly blank. It almost feels like an escape clause for the actor himself, who might still return with a directing project or (who knows?) a little cameo somewhere. For now, though, “The Old Man & The Gun” will be our last screen memory of Redford, the charming rascal who always made out like a bandit.