MOVIE BUFF-ET: Redford still exudes subtle charisma in ‘The Old Man & the Gun’

Fox Searchlight

“The Old Man & the Gun” is about as simple and pleasant as a cops-and-robbers movie can be.

It’s mildly humorous, a bit sentimental, but entirely entertaining. The film may very well be the acting swan song for star Robert Redford, and if it is Redford can proudly amble off into the sunset.

Make no mistake, Redford, 82, remains a star as well as a consummate actor. Though his looks have weathered over the years, all the charm and charisma that made him one of the biggest stars of the 1960 and 1970s is alive and on display in this film.

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Playing elderly hold-up man and prison escape artist Forrest Tucker, Redford generates more warmth and emotion with a tilt of his head, a wink of his eye, or the curl of his lip than many actors can accomplish with a page full of superbly written dialog.

Redford’s steady, understated style has pleased audiences for a half century, and while the film, directed by David Lowery, isn’t great, it is a solid showcase for Redford, who stands tall amidst strong yet melancholy support of Casey Affleck, who plays the police detective patiently tracking Tucker, who is robbing banks all across the Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas region.

Redford’s Tucker, who works in tandem with driver Danny Glover, and lookout Tom Waits, is discreet and gentlemanly as he knocks over bank after bank before finally hitting a big score, containing a gold shipment.

Though Tucker likes the money, he’s in the hold-up business because he likes the thrill of the game. He’s more alive when he’s pulling off a job and making his escape than at any other time.

Between his heists, Tucker strikes up a romantic relationship with Sissy Spacek’s character Jewel. Spacek is good in the role that was much smaller than I wanted it to be. She and Redford both shine in their scenes together, which were too few for my liking.

Their relationship felt more intriguing to me than any of the hold-ups and obligatory chase scenes in the movie that was based on a 2003 New Yorker article by David Grann.

I enjoyed the film that was enjoyably tight, but almost too sleight. Lowery has an interesting eye for shots, and he allowed his fine cast to lean into their roles without ever getting showy.

That lack of flare may keep Redford from getting the Oscar nomination that so many are rooting for him to receive. It would be hard to argue that anyone could have played the part better, but the story itself might not have the type of juice the Academy is looking for.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 33 min.
Grade: B

Classic Corner

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

With Halloween fast approaching, Turner Classic Movies has bevy of films slated that should supply plenty of tricks and treats, starting Saturday and running through Wednesday evening’s block of Vincent Price films.

What caught my attention most from a brief scan of TCM’s online listings is that the channel will air three adaptations of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

The tale, of course, considers the duality of the soul. How can a person perform both good and evil acts? Through a series of experiments Jekyll separates the dark and light sides of psyche to dastardly effect.

TCM screens the 1941 version that stars Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergen at 1:15 p.m. (CT) Saturday. The 1932 version starring Frederic March airs at 8:15 p.m. Monday, and the 1920 silent version, starring John Barrymore at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

All three versions deviate from the novella, with the scripts developed from the stage play rather than directly from Stevenson’s work, but all three are solid films.

I personally prefer the pre-code 1932 version featuring March’s Academy Award winning performance in the duel role as the mad scientist and his evil alter ego.

If you have the time, compare the three and see if you agree.