‘The Old Man & the Gun’ review: Robert Redford charms as bank robber

The Old Man & the Gun

Directed by David Lowery

Starring Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek

Rated PG-13

Playing at Regal Union Square, The Landmark at 57 West

Who would ever suspect Robert Redford of doing something wrong? And that’s his gimmick in “The Old Man and the Gun.” Wear a suit, smile, act polite. Then rob the bank.

Redford has stated that Forrest Tucker, the true outlaw upon whose life this film is based, will be his final film role. If true, it’s a great one to end with (He subsequently walked back those remarks to Variety). If one puts aside any ethical issues associated with the notion of armed robbery, Tucker is a grand romantic figure. He’s a kind man, even when he’s sticking a pistol in someone’s face, but has the urge to commit larceny hard-wired into his DNA.

Filmmaker David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon,” “A Ghost Story”) leans into the larger-than-life, cinematic nature of his hero. Set in 1981, just as the “New Hollywood” that Redford helped kick off in the late 1960s was shifting into the blockbuster era, Lowery shoots on grainy 16 mm film stock and salts the scenes with a jazzy original score. (If composer Daniel Hart isn’t nominated for an Oscar, that’s a bigger crime than any stick up.) Age and time are nipping at Tucker’s heels, but he knows that if he tries to “go straight,” he may as well be dead.

Casey Affleck, mumbly as ever, is the Texas cop leading the investigation. Until the feds step in, of course. A traditional movie would show Affleck going rogue to get his man, but that’s not this story’s style. Being off the case seems to affect him even more than when he was on it.

The cast is rounded out by a marvelous Sissy Spacek as Tucker’s unaware love interest, Danny Glover and Tom Waits (!) as his accomplices, and Elisabeth Moss with one touching monologue. But this is Redford’s show. With the hat, behind the wheel and a smile a mile wide as the wind blows through his graying hair. A late in the game montage is a crafty excuse to re-examine Redford’s career.