Sun­dance Kid makes his last score on sil­ver screen

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - DINING - By Michael Phillips Chicago Tri­bune

In 2003, David Grann’s lov­ably bizarre true-crime ac­count “The Old Man and the Gun” ap­peared in The New Yorker, telling the un­likely story of For­rest Tucker, a natty se­rial bank rob­ber with mul­ti­ple prison es­cape at­tempts on his re­sume. Tucker ended up dy­ing be­hind bars the year af­ter the story brought him na­tional renown.

Such a man was made for the movies, des­tined specif­i­cally to at­tract the at­ten­tion of a star of a cer­tain age. Now 82, Robert Red­ford says “The Old Man and the Gun” will be his fi­nal screen ap­pear­ance. If so it’s a pretty fetch­ing one, in a de­ter­minedly low-key out­ing writ­ten and di­rected by David Low­ery, who has yet to make an un­in­ter­est­ing pic­ture. MPAA rat­ing: PG-13 (for brief strong lan­guage) Run­ning time: 1:33 Opens: Fri­day

This one co-stars Casey Af­fleck as the Dal­las po­lice de­tec­tive on Tucker’s tail. Danny Glover and Tom Waits fill out fan­ci­ful ver­sions of the real men who made up the so-called Over the Hill Gang along with Tucker. Some of the de­tails in the film are le­git, such as Tucker’s use of a con­spic­u­ous hear­ing aid. It made him look vul­ner­a­ble and frail; the de­vice, how­ever, was tuned to the near­est po­lice scan­ner.

Now let’s talk about Sissy Spacek. There’s a mo­ment when her char­ac­ter, Jewel (who bears lit­tle fac­tual re­la­tion to the Jewel in the real Tucker’s life, one of his wives), has just been kissed by her courtly new paramour. Alone, at night, ap­prox­i­mately 100 emo­tions race across this great ac­tress’ face, with de­light and doubt lead­ing the way. It’s a lovely non­ver­bal mo­ment, fore­shad­ow­ing what’s to come while bring­ing you sud­denly close to what this woman is feel­ing.

I hope Spacek gets a role as spa­cious and ac­com­mo­dat­ing as Red­ford’s some­day

By con­trast, Spacek’s co-star de­liv­ers what he has been best at: a sin­gle, care­ful look, or mood, or un­der­stated note at a time. Red­ford is not a chord man. I wouldn’t call the film it­self com­plex, but it’s sweet­na­tured.

Set in 1981 and shot by cin­e­matog­ra­pher Joe An­der­son on Su­per 16 mm film, it has the grainy, soft­edged look and tex­ture of a movie made around that time, or a few years ear­lier. It’s a gen­tle throw­back, with a stun­ning lack of vi­o­lence or rough lan­guage or sala­cious any­thing to trou­ble the wa­ters.

Low­ery’s ear­lier films in­clude “Ain’t Them Bod­ies Saints” and “A Ghost Story” with Af­fleck, and “Pete’s Dragon” with Red­ford in a sup­port­ing role. “The Old Man and the Gun” retells Tucker’s story by way of a com­pressed time­line and plenty of in­ven­tions, most of which feel about right. (How­ever, Tucker re­ally did bust out of prison all those times, and in 1979 he re­ally did es­cape, tem­po­rar­ily, from San Quentin, in a home­made row­boat.) This is a fact-based yarn so re­laxed in the telling that it’s prac­ti­cally ly­ing down. Ev­ery­one on screen has a pleas­ant time with their co­horts.

Low­ery taps our mem­o­ries of Red­ford’s en­tire ca­reer. To­day the ac­tor’s face is a won­der of deep creases. His gait may be stiffer, but it’s still brisk and pur­pose­ful. No fuss. Same goes for his act­ing.

“Whad­dya do?” Spacek asks him early on, won­der­ing what line of work her new friend is in. “That’s a se­cret,” Red­ford replies, with a quick smile that says he’ll be keep­ing it that way for a while. The movie may not be a big deal, but it’s a shrewd small one, worth see­ing for Waits’ larce­nous scene-steal­ing by way of a Christ­mas-re­lated mono­logue so tasty, it’s no sur­prise to learn Low­ery got it from a story Waits sug­gested he might throw into the film some­where. This may be Red­ford’s farewell, but the film’s gra­cious enough to split the loot with his co­horts. Michael Phillips is a Tri­bune critic.


For­rest Tucker (Robert Red­ford) takes in a movie with his love, Jewel (Sissy Spacek), in “The Old Man and the Gun.”

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