My mother loved his eyes. Robert Redford. The rest, meah, a bit too ‘pretty’ for her. She preferred a rugged film star to His Blondness. But put him together with Paul Newman and she could barely contain herself with her swooning. When The Sting appeared in 1973 she was sold. And that Scott Joplin tune; ah, did we hear that a lot?
I thought about that when we settled down to watch what Redford says will be his final picture
The Old Man & The Gun
Mum would love it, just because those eyes would, inevitably stare out from the screen; that and the fact he was playing a rogue. So what if the setting around said eyes had aged like hydrophobic tree bark? That just adds character, right?
The premise is classic Redford. And it is based on true story. A crook is out of jail – escaped – and, with his old comrades, begins a robbery spree in backwater bank branches taking small amounts of money. Meanwhile a cop begins to suspect there’s a pattern to these seemingly small thefts and that the perp might be a rather well known crook. The chase begins. Meanwhile (2) Redford meets Sissy Spacek and falls for her and her for him. He tells her he’s a robber but she doesn’t choose to believe it and so another chase ensues.
Back when the Sting came out the set up would have us believe Redford was some sort of Robin Hood character with a heart of gold but here the film takes a modern, and better turn, showing us that despite being ‘nice’ he still terrifies those he points his gun at. Indeed he eventually faces a dilemma: does his addiction to robbery, for the thrill – for that is what it is – outweigh his growing affection for Spacek?
I’ll stop plot spoiling there. I hold my hand up and will happily say that Spacek is a class act in whatever film she appears and her character here is beautifully well drawn. I’ll also say that I have found Redford often cold and sometimes wooden and he is far from that here. I’m no fan of Casey Affleck – another one who thinks mumbling suggests depth rather than congenital inarticulacy – but even though his part as the cop is significant I can forgive his presence. This is a consummate piece of film and if, indeed, it turns out to be Redford’s last then it is a fine swansong.
Go see for yourself…