There’s a moment in “The Old Man & the Gun” when Robert Redford’s career flashes before his fans’ eyes.
As a law enforcement official recounts the character’s past, we see photos from old Redford movies. It’s a nostalgic touch, but one that pulls us out of the story at hand.
In the based-in-truth drama, Redford plays a habitual bank robber who’s still at it in his 70s. After breaking out of prison more than a dozen times, his Forrest Tucker still gets a thrill from sauntering up to a teller and politely asking for money.
He gets through quite a few banks (with the help of two old friends, played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits) before meeting a widow (Sissy Spacek) who could get him to change his ways.
They flirt over pie, begin a relationship and talk about the past. She has a farm she doesn’t want to sell; he has a family that’s merely a memory.
Written and directed by David Lowery, the film takes its time to unfold. In some places, the pauses are almost interminable. But it’s interesting to see how someone in his 70s manages to make off with millions.
Charm, of course, is the answer, even though a cop on his trail connects the dots and figures things out. “Hell or High Water” traveled a similar path, but it had more interest – and great performances by Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine. Here, Casey Affleck stumbles through the story as the lawman trying to get his man.
Set in the 1980s, “The Old Man & the Gun” has some trappings of the era, but it’s not steeped in them.
Instead, it’s the kind of prestige drama actors like to make when they’re about to quit the business.
Redford still has that “Sting” twinkle (and a recognizable gesture at one point), but he’s not pushed the way he was in “All Is Lost.” There, we saw the acting muscles. Here, we get the charm.
When he, Waits and Glover make their way through a bank, “Going in Style” comes quickly to mind. The films aren’t the same but there’s a similar dynamic.
Because Lowery zips through the early prison breaks, “The Old Man” feels like it’s missing something.
Redford and Spacek aren’t the problem.
But the script pages that wound up on the floor might have warranted a second look.