Low key and amiable, “The Old Man and the Gun” is a crime drama about the nicest bank robber ever. Robert Redford, age 82, plays a stick-up man whose victims gush about how polite and well-mannered he was as he relieved them of their cash.
Forest Tucker (Redford), career criminal and all round nice guy, is part of a gang the press would later name the Over-The-Hill-Gang. All north of seventy the thieves (Danny Glover and Tom Waits) rob rural banks, usually making off with hundreds, not thousands of dollars. Calm and collected, they get in and out quickly. “Don’t do anything stupid,” Tucker says to the tellers. “I wouldn’t want to have to hurt you ‘cuz I like you. Don’t break my heart.” For Tucker it’s not about the cash, it’s about the rush.
Driving the get-a-way car after one bank job Tucker stops to assist a stranded motorist. As the police whiz by he gives Jewel (Sissy Spacek) a line of chat that charms her enough to agree to go for a cup of coffee. The pair hit it off and begin a friendship that borders on the romantic.
Meanwhile Tucker and crew are robbing banks, sometimes more than one a day, a streak that draws the attention of detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) and the FBI.
The mostly true story of Tucker and his life of crime and passion is a low-key affair anchored by the easy charms of Redford and Spacek.
Redford made a career playing rascally anti-heroes like the leads in “The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Here there is a wistfulness in the character that comes with age and the realization that the end of the road is just around the bend.
Spacek plays Jewel as a woman of strength; a person who has seen it all but is still open to finding something new. Together the pair bring life experiences that create a lived-in chemistry that is never less than watchable.
Add to that a scene-stealing performance from Tom Waits—every line of his dialogue sounds like a line from one of his songs—and you have a new take on an American staple, the charismatic scoundrel.