New Releases: Character-driven Script Makes The Old Man (2022) New

Plenty of direct-to-streaming or to–video plots involve some old agent/hitman being pulled back into his old life by some turn of events. Actors run through the lines with attempted emotion and hurry off to the next low-budget, scattershot action sequence. 


The Old Man takes this overly familiar story and elevates it with a character-driven script, heaving hitting actors bringing their best, and well-orchestrated and filmed action sequences. It also melds this formula with frequent scenes of contemplative dialogue from characters in the later years of their lives. This addition could frustrate viewers expecting an even older version of John Wick-type character, but it could also delight anyone watching for the heavy-hitting ensemble of John Lithgow, Amy Brennaman, and Jeff Bridges. 


Production of the series, which originally began in 2019, was put on hold while Bridges recovered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma and COVID. Season one of the series premiered this June and released the final episode on July 21st. It was adapted from the pulpy novel of the same name by Thomas Perry, but changes were made to expand the plot and include new characters. 


Bridges plays Dan Chase, an ex-CIA agent living off the grid and recovering from the death of his wife. He delivers the Clint Eastwood-like gravitas with only a minimal amount of Dude-like stammering. While it may be easy for viewers to see Bridges as a weathered old man with some wisdom to spout, it may be more challenging to see him as a Liam Neeson-like bad ass who can take out agents half his age. 


Yet Bridges delivers during actions sequences that are filmed in the one-take, unbroken shot style. Though stunt doubles may have been used, it appears that Bridges, now 72, performs all the rough fights and actions sequences. This prompts the expected “Who is this guy?” line from some younger, ignorant character unfamiliar with the Old Man. 


Complex characters and backstories from Lithgow and Brenneman’s characters make this more engaging. Brenneman unexpectedly steals more than a few scenes, creating some plot complications for Dan Chase. Also delivering a strong, performance was Alia Skawkat, expanding her more dramatic roles since her early days as Maebe on Arrested Development. Skawkat’s character plays an integral role in the series’ seven episodes, delivering one or two surprisesAll three of these characters and their backstories converge in a smart, well-constructed puzzle that makes The Old Man a slow burn drama punctuated by realistic action sequences. 


All episodes now streaming on Hulu.


—Eric Beach