The Old Man TV Review

Plot: The Old Man centers on Dan Chase who absconded from the CIA decades ago and has been living off the grid since.  When an assassin arrives and tries to take Chase out, the old operative learns that to ensure his future he now must reconcile his past.

Review: For his first starring role in a television series, Jeff Bridges picked one hell of a project. The Oscar-winning actor, who battled cancer and COVID-19 during the production of The Old Man, delivers an intense performance as Dan Chase, a government operative in hiding who resurfaces decades later and goes on the run. Utilizing all of the deadly skills at his disposal, Chase’s age slows him down as he fights for the life he has been trying to protect for years. As brutal as things get in this series, The Old Man showcases Jeff Bridges as good as he has ever been before along with another impeccable supporting turn by the always-excellent John Lithgow. When Bridges and Lithgow share scenes together, The Old Man shines. When the story flashes back to the thirty-year earlier event that set this tale into motion, the narrative somewhat loses its way.

From the very opening scene of the first episode, The Old Man presents us with a main character that has become a standard role for Jeff Bridges. Like his grizzled veteran roles in Hell or High Water, Crazy Heart, True Grit, and Only the Brave, Bridges here channels a relic of a bygone era. Dan Chase lives alone with his dogs and talks on the phone with his daughter when one night he is discovered by assassins who come to kill him. This thrusts Chase into a cat and mouse chase with the FBI where his former friend Harold Harper (John Lithgow) is in charge of tracking him down. Where this character differs from what Bridges has done in the past is the brutal efficiency with which he kills those who get in his way. While his age plays a factor in how adept he is at fighting for his life, Chase is a character who could easily hold his own opposite any of Liam Neeson’s Taken-esque characters.

The Old Man offers a stellar repartee between Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow who, despite not sharing the screen physically, act to the peak of their acting talents. As much as I wish this series was just the two actors going toe to toe dramatically, there is a lot going on in this series, much of which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. A large chunk of the four episodes made available for this review cross the three decades of history that lead to the current events of this series. In the flashbacks, young Dan Chase (played by Bill Heck) and Harold Harper (Christopher Redman) encounter Faraz Hamzad who plays an integral part in what becomes the central conflict of this tale. As the episodes progress, you almost need to take notes to keep the timeline, locations, and characters straight as they are introduced. The story crams a lot of detail into a short amount of time and I struggled to keep track of everything that was going on. In short, this story struggles to make a lot of sense.

The present-day events are far more interesting to follow despite the reliance on a lot of exposition delivered via phone calls. While two agents on Chase’s trail, played by EJ Bonilla and Gbenga Akinnagbe, are solid supporting players, there seems to be a drop in the quality when it comes to the female roles in this series. Amy Brenneman portrays a woman who comes into contact with Dan Chase and provides the crux of a subplot that is unnecessary, to say the least. Brenneman, who was excellent in both The Leftovers and the recent Shining Girls, is wasted here in a role that could have been completely excised without impacting the story. Alia Shawkat, on the other hand, plays a more important role as young FBI agent Angela Adams who has her own reasons for wanting Dan Chase found. Neither character is as important to the story as they should, or could, have been and serve as more reminders of how much better this series could have been.

Adapted from the novel by Thomas Perry, The Old Man is written by Jonathan E. Steinberg (Black Sails) and Robert Levine (See) who do their best to intersect the contemporary and flashback scenes in a way that informs the narrative of this story. The series also serves as the first directorial effort from Jon Watts since completing his Spider-Man trilogy for Marvel Studios. Watts has a keen eye for directing action and manages to pack in some brutal hand-to-hand fights in his episodes that are intense to watch. In the premiere episode alone, there is an extended fight that is one of the best screen tussles in recent memory. Watts handed the reigns over to Greg Yaitanes for the third and fourth episodes made available for this review and he manages to keep up with the action. This is a dark series for the most part but also manages to make great use of the global locations throughout the flashbacks. The issue never seems to be with the filmmaking on The Old Man but predominantly on the uneven dialogue and inconsistencies between the current story and the flashbacks.

The Old Man has the perfect structure for a feature film that could have shed the additional subplots and flashbacks that drag the pace of this story down to a crawl. Spread over multiple episodes, the story tries and fails to replicate what has made other marquee dramas like The Americans work. Had it followed more of the style of The Fugitive or the Jason Bourne films, The Old Man likely would have worked a lot better. As it stands, The Old Man thinks it is more clever than it actually is with a twist revealed in the third episode pretty easy to figure out for any viewers paying attention to the show. This series is worth watching for Jeff Bridges in action mode and for every scene he shares with John Lithgow but will require some dedicated viewers willing to stick with the story to the very end.

The Old Man premieres on June 16th on Hulu.


About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.