I’ve always enjoyed watching Robert Redford onscreen, and although he’s no longer a youngster he retains every bit of the star quality that blossomed sixty years ago. The Old Man & the Gun is a vehicle in the best sense of that term, a good story that showcases its leading man to best advantage. (Nothing if not self-aware, Redford acquired the screen rights to this true story as reported in The New Yorker and brought it to director David Lowery, whom he enjoyed working with on Pete’s Dragon.)

He plays an unlikely character that I doubt anyone would invent because he’d scarcely be believable: a gentleman bank robber, and a good one at that. He’s been arrested sixteen times and managed to escape every single time. He is so  unassuming that no one suspects him when he saunters into a bank about to ply his trade.

Redford is the personification of charm and ebullience here. Watch his scenes with Sissy Spacek, especially when they are sitting opposite each other in a coffee-shop booth. His eyes are so alive it’s positively dazzling. This goes far beyond an actor reading lines. There is a magic, an alchemy that transforms a man into a Movie Star.

Redford is expertly supported by Casey Affleck, as a cop on the robbery detail who’s determined to nab this guy and put him away for good. Tom Waits and Danny Glover are wonderful as his partners in crime. Spacek plays a widow who doesn’t approve of what he does but can’t help falling under his spell. The same might be said of director Lowery, who wrote the screenplay as a love letter to Redford. I am also a member of that club, having enjoyed Redford at every stage of his career.

P.S. He made a remark not long ago about this being his last movie, but at a q&a panel at the Telluride Film Festival he shrugged it off, as if to say that anything’s possible. That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024