He’s back, Jeremiah Johnson, Sundance Kid, Johnny Hooker from “The Sting,” and the gorgeous movie star Hubbell Gardiner in “The Way We Were.”

Yes, Robert Redford is back, perhaps for the last time in “The Old Man and the Gun,” where he plays Forrest Tucker, a senior citizen habitual bank robber, 17-time prison escapee and counting, known as the “Gentleman Thief,” for his courtly manner when taking the cash.

“He was so kind and sweet,” the cashiers say.

I pause here for a moment to say I’ve always thought of Redford as being really, really good at being a movie star, with those blue, twinkling eyes and that hesitant smile trying to form at the corners of his mouth. The camera loves it, the studios love it, women especially love it. It’s an old Hollywood story.

But I suspect that sometimes the actor deep down in his soul — that graduate of New York’s famed American Academy of Dramatic Arts that he always wanted to be if only he had been born with DeNiro’s face — escapes and leaks out.

In David Lowery’s “The Old Man and the Gun” this happens several times and it’s nice to watch.

Here, he too often uses old movie star tricks, and becomes once again Johnny Hooker from “The Sting” who is back with a new hat and a new bag of tricks. Still, there is a beautiful moment in one scene with the impossibly magnificent Sissy Spacek sitting across from him in a small town cafe booth.

Lowery (”Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) gets his cinematographer Joe Anderson to slide his camera in for a series of closeups.

Sissy, as “Jewel,” a down on her luck widow who owns a ranch and pretty horses, and Redford as “Forrest,” who is six miles ahead of the law after his last bank heist, had just met on the highway where her deceased husband’s old truck broke down. Forrest, ever the aging flirt, and needing the cover her presence will give him, provides her a ride into town and into this cafe.

In this booth, the best stuff in the movie happens. In the short scene, that antique serum called chemistry flows across the formica table top.

The camera moves from Sissy’s eyes, dappled with dangling locks of unkempt hair, to Redford’s weathered, lined face and flirting blue eyes.

This is not a scene about getting each other into bed, they’re both a bit past that now, and it’s better than that.

It’s about watching the ancient memories of two once-upon-a-timers, floating back out of the past, sharing a soda with two straws, holding hands in the movie, walking slowly home in the moonlight. We’ve all been on that walk. We’ve all seen that moonlight.

Before our eyes, Forrest and Jewel become young again, we can see them drawing from one another the taste and smell of lost moments, times gone by that were fun, romantic. It is as though they just bumped into one another on the street, some 50 years later. There are several scenes between the two of them to follow, but none as magical as this. It is, as John Huston once wrote, “the stuff dreams are made of.”

In this sense, “The Old Man and the Gun” is a sort of Valentine signed and delivered by two old movie pros.

The rest of the film is a nice compilation of cops and robbers, chase and catch. The film is tainted by the impossibly bad Casey Affleck, who is here as Detective John Hunt, a small-time Texas cop who thinks speaking in low, mumbling, inaudible gurgles is “method acting.”

It’s lifted and shined up by the irrepressible Danny Glover and the legendary Tom Waits as Teddy and Waller, two end-of-the-road colleagues sadly given little to do. But this is a true story and their contribution is required.

“The Old Man and the Gun” is a great, true story put in a small package.

Writer-Director Lowry (”Ghost Story”) does a nice job putting all the pieces together and deserves an Oscar simply for that scene in the coffee house booth. Don’t miss it. It’s pure gold, a classic.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.