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The Tense Thriller With Room To Breathe — ‘The Old Man’ (TV Review)

3 min read
The Old Man (2022)

In recent years there has been somewhat of a trend where veteran actors star in high-octane flicks and revel in their own stunt work. But while the likes of Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron were in their 40s and 50s respectively, 72-year-old has stepped into the ring to show that even at his age, he can still kick some serious ass. 

Finally airing in the UK on +, is a that manages to balance intense action with some compelling . Its opening two episodes set up the characters and stakes extremely well – which isn't too surprising when the cast feature the likes of Bridges, and Amy Brenneman – but there are several glaring issues that stop The Old Man from being a genuinely great show.  

Dan Chase (Bridges) is a seemingly harmless elderly citizen living in the woods with his two dogs. He's haunted by his wife, Abbey (Hiam Abbass), who had passed away some time ago, and converses with her increasingly worried daughter over the phone. This facade of a bumbling old man is shattered when an assassin attempts to kill Chase, only to be brutally dispatched by him. From there Chase finds himself on the run from Harold Harper (Lithgow), an FBI agent who shares a complicated history with him. 

An elderly man talks to a young women amongst a row of office booths
20th Television

Unsurprisingly the best aspect of the show so far is the performances. Bridges naturally brings some charm and wit into the role as a world-weary man but you can see the vulnerability he tries to hide underneath the surface. Chase is haunted by his past, and whilst sometimes those hauntings are visually shown, you can see it through a simple gaze or a subtle expression. Lithgow too does great work as Chase's old accomplice, and again it's the subtleties in the performance that tells you the relationship between Harper and Chase isn't what it seems. 

Whilst other similar projects – a veteran killer back in the game – turn their stars into unstoppable forces, The Old Man cleverly lets you know that the titular character really has aged. Chase's experience shows in the brutal takedowns he dishes out  – mostly done by Bridges himself in a thrillingly physical role – but he doesn't get by unscathed. Each set piece is a life or death struggle between the weaker but wiser Chase and his stronger but inexperienced adversaries – which makes for some genuinely intense sequences.

Unfortunately, not everything works. A secondary plot line featuring a younger version of the cast simply doesn't work due to the casting of a young Dan Chase (Bill Heck). He simply doesn't have any of the charisma or dramatic chops that Bridges possesses and makes every line of dialogue sound like it came from a z-list police procedural. Talking about the writing, it somehow feels uneven across the show. It sometimes leans into camp that doesn't work, but other times it works wonderfully as an adult thriller – the highlight being a dinner date scene in the second episode. 

It's a solid start for The Old Man – a tense thriller that has room to breathe as a nuanced drama, anchored by strong performances. The flashbacks are woefully bad but thankfully don't take too much screen time in each episode, so here's hoping that it stays that way for the rest of the season. If the series continues to focus on the central veteran cast and keeps delivering solid set pieces, The Old Man could become something special.

The Old Man is streaming exclusively on + from 28th September.