Still Kicking: Our Review of ‘The Old Man’

Posted in Disney +, TV, What's Streaming? by - August 18, 2022
Still Kicking: Our Review of ‘The Old Man’

After finishing its run on FX in the US earlier this summer and being available to US Hulu subscribers, the new series The Old Man finally arrives north of the border via Disney+.  Starring Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow, The Old Man is an espionage thriller harkening back to the 80/90s with a more methodical pace than a Bourne movie or others of that ilk. It also gives us a different side of Bridges altogether.

A former CIA operative living off the grid, Dan Chase (Bridges) is still haunted by his past on a daily basis. But when a hitman enters his home one night, Dan knows that the past has finally caught up with him and he must move to protect not only himself but his loved ones. Packing up what little belongings and both his dogs, Dan attempts to elude his pursuers, his former handler Harold Harper (Lithgow) included. Chase inadvertently drags a few people into this mess like Harper’s team, who includes mentee Angela Adams (Alia Shawkat) and the ultra suspicious Raymond Walters (E.J. Bonilla). He leaves them to dog through the past to find answers for what is happening now as an old enemy of Chase’s may be pulling all the strings.

The Old Man is a bit of a throwback in the way the film presents itself, waiting and biding its time as it unfurls its secrets. In this way, the format of a 7 episode series works wonders to drag out the suspense and allow the audience to invest in all the characters here. Actually spending time with both sides of this contract allows us to clearly see the motivations of both sides and just makes the impending implosion just more palpable. Giving us access to the first 4 episodes for review purposes was also a calculated move because one of the characters makes a crucial decision that could impact the entire rest of the series just before the end of episode 4.

Jeff Bridges makes a welcome return in his first role in a major project since 2018’s mostly forgotten Bad Times at the El Royale and very quickly reminds us of why he’s one of our most underrated talents. His presence and command of the screen are masterful, and the story is shaped around the cunning and occasional brute force of his Dan Chase. He doesn’t fight “clean and tidy” as you would see in a Taken movie. No, Dan is beaten up as much or more than he dishes out. But he’s unrelenting despite his age and can out strategize most people. Plus the dogs, Dave and Carol, 2 highly trained and gorgeous rottweilers, are both his best friends and his greatest weapons.

Not to be excluded is the rest of the cast. Every good anti-establishment antihero needs a government man foil and Lithgow delivers that kind of character with aplomb. Even though the 2 don’t share the same room in the first half of the series, the chemistry between the two is clearly evident. Shawkat shines in a difficult role that like a lot of characters isn’t given away very easily. Bonilla is the perfect smarmy pest that questions everything and is really there to plant more seeds and red herrings to keep the audience guessing. The show also stars the always impressive Amy Brenneman as a possible love interest and the legendary Joel Grey.

Tom Holland Spiderman trilogy director Jon Watts directs the first 2 episodes and gets the series started on the right foot. The action is much more realistic and painful than a traditional action series, but Bridges and his character are in their 70s and therefore things should hurt more. But Bridges infuses Dan Chase with not only a grizzled exterior and ability but with a steely intellect that makes him always one or two steps ahead. The end of Episode 4 seems to be a pivot point for the series, and I for one can’t wait to dig into the rest.

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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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