After saying that “The Previous Man and the Gun” could be his ultimate performing position, Robert Redford has backtracked — and watching the movie makes one grateful for the change of coronary heart.
As Forrest Tucker, an aged financial institution robber with a twinkle in his eye and larceny in his soul, Redford performs to all his still-formidable strengths: subtlety, easy charisma and appears that, although craggier and extra weathered, stay irresistible.
Actually, Redford’s inherent charms accomplish that a lot of the work in “The Previous Man and the Gun” that they obscure what a questionable character Tucker actually is.
Opening at a time when entitlement and privilege have by no means been extra floridly expressed, right here they’re introduced as benign, innocent and price celebrating. (Lastly, an instance of white male impunity we are able to root for!)
Not that writer-director David Lowery is unaware of his protagonist’s problematic facet: He makes positive to present the viewers room for not less than a couple of moments of ambivalence. For probably the most half, although, this light, low-key ride-along — based mostly on a New Yorker story a few real-life profession prison — is introduced as an ode to freedom, mischief and staying younger.
As “The Previous Man and the Gun” opens, Forrest is doing what he does greatest: presenting himself as a candy previous man shuffling as much as a younger, feminine financial institution teller and quietly telling her to present him a satchel full of cash, pointing to his inside jacket pocket as a wordless risk.
The crime is all very quiet and civilized, and when Forrest leads the police on a automobile chase, there are not any squealing tires or pyrotechnics. Actually, he comes up with an ingenious feint that has the advantage of introducing him to Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a kindhearted ranch-woman with whom he embarks on a shy, teasingly endearing flirtation.
Jewel and Forrest’s dates — normally over pie and occasional — are among the most satisfying sequences of “The Previous Man and the Gun,” which lights up each time Spacek is on-screen. Her blushing, responsive efficiency provides a spark of spontaneity to a story that is understated to a fault.
When a Dallas detective named John Hunt (Casey Affleck) decides to run Tucker to floor, what ensues is much less a recreation of cat-and-mouse than sloth-and-sea turtle. Scruffy and slurry, Hunt pursues Tucker from Texas to Missouri, piecing collectively the profession of a prison who’s motivated much less by greed than pure vocation.
There may be little subtext to “The Previous Man and the Gun”; Hunt is simply turning 40, and regardless that he is severe about nagging Tucker, the cop admires the way in which that stealing retains his perp within the recreation. Lowery offers the enterprise a stunning retro sheen, from the grainy 16-mm movie inventory he makes use of to a splendid, jazz-infused musical rating by composer Daniel Hart. (The story takes place within the early 1980s.)
Danny Glover and Tom Waits are readily available to play Tucker’s henchmen, who’re each bit as lovable and nonthreatening as he’s. Waits has the movie’s funniest strains, particularly in the course of the course of delivering a shaggy-dog story over drinks in a dimly lit bar.
A polemicist may need discovered room for Glover’s character to touch upon the truth that solely a person who appears like Tucker may get away with financial institution theft in broad daylight with out eliciting a scintilla of suspicion.
Or for Hunt’s African-American spouse to look at that, when Tucker is little doubt pulling his umpteenth heist in a couple of years, their younger daughter will likely be adopted by safety guards each time she walks right into a retailer on the mall. Lowery chooses to place zero spin on the ball, leaving it to viewers to do it themselves, as temperament dictates.
If the social politics are unstated and the stakes agonizingly low in “The Previous Man and the Gun,” Redford followers will likely be gratified by watching him play a gentleman thief within the custom of David Niven and Cary Grant — and, come to consider it, himself.
Lowery suggestions the referential hat every time he can, utilizing photos from Redford’s previous films, together with nods to “The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Child,” amongst others.
Certainly, “The Previous Man and the Gun” ambles together with such unhurried, folksy ease that it is easy to miss the folks — largely ladies — Tucker leaves in his wake, victims who may not be bodily scarred however typically look as if they’ll bear unseen accidents into the long run nonetheless.
Seen via one more lens, that is a testomony to the protagonist’s manipulative expertise — and to the disarmingly seductive presents of the person who performs him: Sixty years right into a different and vigorous profession, the child remains to be a pure.