Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek star in The Old Man and the Gun, based on the true story of bank robber Forrest Tucker and the Over the Hill Gang. The film is widely expected to be Redford’s last in front of the camera. Fox Searchlight Pictures

ON FILM: Redford going out in style with Over the Hill bank heist film

Monday reviewer Robert Moyes takes us through the latest big screen offerings

Robert Moyes

Monday Magazine columnist

The easy-going The Old Man & the Gun tells the true-life tale of a criminal named Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), whose spate of bank robberies in the early 1970s is the focus of the film.

A lifelong criminal, the resourceful Tucker finessed 16 escapes from custody prior to the ’70s, including secretly building a boat to sail away from Alcatraz (at the age of 70!). Tucker carries a gun but it’s really just a prop – he’s an old-fashioned gentleman unfailingly described as “polite” and “happy” by those he robs. One young teller starts to cry during their interaction and Tucker discovers that it’s her first day on the job. “Don’t worry,” he reassures her with a warm smile. “You’re doing great.”

Fleeing from the police after the bank heist that opens the movie, Tucker is cool enough to stop and render assistance when he spots a woman whose truck has broken down. Right from the get-go Tucker and Jewel (Sissy Spacek) have great chemistry, and before long it’s clear that this sweet, self-reliant widow is more of a catch than any briefcase full of stolen loot. Ah, but is our thrill-seeking rascal ready to hang up his gun?

Although the movie focuses on Tucker, he’s one of a trio of robbers, all similarly geriatric. Soon dubbed the Over The Hill Gang, they first irritate and eventually fascinate small-town detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) whose investigation gradually leads him to the discovery that these three guys have been operating under the radar for years, having pulled off dozens and dozens of little bank jobs across several states.

A mock-heroic Inspector Javert in dogged pursuit of a twinkly-eyed Jean Valjean, Hunt resents it when the FBI takes over the case … so he continues running his own investigation. Hunt’s wife, drolly watching this obsession, realizes that both her husband and Tucker are having way too much fun playing their respective parts in what has almost become a game.

This is widely rumoured to be Redford’s last performance, and the charismatic and much-honoured 82-year-old is ambling into the sunset with a characteristic abundance of style and charm. He and Spacek are Hollywood royalty and they play off of each other with marvelous skill. And writer-director David Lowery, working at a leisurely pace, deftly delivers a caper film lightly dosed with Prozac. Sure, Old Man is slight. But who could resent handing their ticket money over to a robber this genial?

Rating: ***

Stars Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck

Directed by David Lowery

COMING SOON:

Bohemian Rhapsody

Long in development, this amped-up biopic of flamboyant Queen frontman Freddie Mercury could easily become one of the hits of the season.

Boy Erased

After doing great work in Manchester By The Sea and Ladybird, Lucas Hedges stars in this affecting drama about a gay teen forced by his Baptist father (Russell Crowe) to attend one of those “pray the gay away” conversion-therapy camps. With Nicole Kidman.

Overlord

Chris Pine (Star Trek) gets to go medieval on our ass with this bloodily thrilling historical epic about Robert the Bruce, the broad sword-swinging hero who led Scotland in its first war of independence from England. Watch out, Braveheart!

Widows

The latest from Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) is an edgy genre flick about four widows who decide to finish the job after their bank-robbing husbands get gunned down during a heist. The incredible cast includes Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) is back with an adaptation of a James Baldwin novel about a couple in 1970s Harlem who are undone when a false rape accusation gets traction in a racist justice system.

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