Earlier this week to escape the Welsh rain I went to the cinema to see The Old Man & The Gun, a Black Sheep Bandit film par excellence.
The movie is based on the true story of Forrest Tucker, a legendary outlaw bank robber who kept going back for ‘one last hustle’ until well into his 70s. Robert Redford masterfully plays this loveable rogue as well as producing the nostalgia-tinged film (which has many homage snapshots to his career). This movie is Redford’s brilliant retirement moment, much like Tucker’s final heist.
What stood out for me was the “Nice Bad Boy” vibe of the story. If you want a blueprint for what a cheeky glint in the eye and a warm smirk should look like then watch Redford throughout. Textbook player body language from an actor and a character with peak Amused Mastery.
This quote from the real-life Tucker himself sums up the smooth “Hustler with Heart” central theme of the film:
“In the old days, the stickup men were like cowboys,” he continued. “They would just go in shooting, yelling for everyone to lie down. But to me violence is the first sign of an amateur.”
The best holdup men, in his view, were like stage actors, able to hold a room by the sheer force of their personality. Some even wore makeup and practiced getting into character.
“There is an art to robbing a bank if you do it right,” Tucker said. Whereas he once cultivated a flamboyant image, he later developed, he said, a subtler, more ‘natural’ style”