‘The Old Man’ Review: An Old Trope Elevated By An Amazing Cast of Actors
The old trope of the retired badass is one of the most compelling in fiction. Countless stories have been written about it, and they still managed to become fan favorites year after year. Why? Because the trope encapsulates two things that audiences love; a mystery and of course, tons of badass action. Why did this character renounce everything? Why does he need to go back in the game? Has he lost is touch? All these questions make for great fuel for a story.
And so, over and over again we see it, in different forms, in different genres. Liam Neeson has basically made it his late career, and older actors find themselves an easy fit for it. In reality, to execute the trope in a proper way is really hard, you need a great actor, for it, not anyone can do it, and you also need a great writer and director behind it. You require a team that can take what we see in our minds and put it on the screen in all of its glory.
The Old Man is a new action thriller TV series developed for Hulu by Jonathan E. Steinberg. The show is based on the novel by the same name, written by Thomas Perry. The series stars Jeff Bridges, Amy Brenneman, John Lithgow, Alia Shawkat, and Gbenga Akinnagbe. The series tells the story of Dan Chase, an old and retired CIA operative, who suddenly gets a visit from an assassin trying to kill him. Chase goes on the run, while an old friend still working for the agency is commanded to catch him and kill him for unknown reasons.
The Old Man as we said before relies on the old retired badass trope. Tropes aren’t really a bad thing, many people try to pass them as such, but they are only conventions of storytelling that define what works and what does not. Tropes also define very well the limits of certain stories, and so they are useful if the creators want to go in a different direction. It all depends on execution and fortunately, The Old Man executes the trope perfectly creating a very interesting mystery that also delivers on the action, and the feelings.
What The Old Man has that many other TV shows don’t is one hell of an impressive cast of actors. They are the ones who elevate this old story into something more gripping and intriguing. It really goes to show how every single element in a film or a TV series depends on the others. Here, what could be an old-tired trope is made fascinating by the acting abilities of the actors hired for the project. And what a cast!
In front of the project, also serving as the face of it, is Jeff Bridges. The veteran actor has done it all in film and television. Comedy, action, mystery, drama, Bridges can do everything. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise when he can definitely do Dan Chase justice. It is really easy to believe that Bridges is more than just a simple old man in the show. He has this aura about him that he can fill with a good dose of mystery and intimidation. You don’t really want to be on his bad side.
Bridges plays perfectly when it comes to delivering the action beats needed to sell the story. And with director Jon Watts setting the stage and the mood of the series in the first two episodes, you can really feel that the show is going places. Watts began as a small indie director, but now after having directed the latest Spider-Man trilogy of films his capabilities have really gone a step up, and it shows.
On top of the great directing and Bridges’ amazing performance, the show also has an impressive supporting cast, with Brenneman leading the pack in the role of Zoe. Her interactions with Bridges are some highlights regarding character moments in the first two episodes. Their relationship is a strange one, but one that you definitely want to see developing further in future episodes.
Shawkat, and Akinnagbe, also bring with them their charisma and presence and make for some really compelling characters who might a bit over their hands when it comes to the mission that was assigned to them. And last but not least Lithgow, another veteran with incredible acting skills, becomes the perfect antagonist for Bridges’ Dan Chase. Lithgow plays the perfect G-Man, who was once friends with Chase and now needs to capture him dead or alive.
Visually, the show feels very gritty and real, it takes us back to Watts’s pre-Marvel work, showing that the director still has the touch that made him jump to the blockbuster scene in the first place. There is a lot of Reacher, and even Yellowstone in here, and both are very welcome comparisons as they are all quality shows.
The Old Man is a perfect watch, as it has all the elements of a successful show that you want to keep watching season after season. Something tells us that it won’t be long-lived, but if it does, we are here for the ride. Boasting amazing actors, great visuals, and that cozy feeling of familiarity, Hulu might be having a hit in their hands.