‘The Old Man’ review: Jeff Bridges shows courage as an agent on the run


The title of FX The old man doesn’t really tell you what kind of show it is. It could be a goofy multi-camera sitcom about a misbehaving old man who gets kicked out of his nursing home and has to move in with his hipster grandson. It could be a whimsical comedy-drama about a retiree looking to fill his days. Or it could be what it really is: a thriller starring Jeff Bridges as a rogue former CIA agent who must kill many people when the fugitive identity he’s lived under for decades is discovered. . Even the show’s poster image is relatively indescribable, with Bridges’ giant head floating behind co-star John Lithgow’s concerned body as the former handler. He tells you that The old man stars two revered, award-winning actors, and not much else.

But even if FX had chosen to change the title from that of the Thomas Perry novel the series is based on – perhaps to The guy remains the murder? — The old man would still feel somewhat generic. It delivers exactly what the poster promises, in two excellent performances from Bridges and Lithgow (plus solid supporting acts from Amy Brenneman, Alia Shawkat and Gbenga Akinnagbe), and offers a bonus in some gripping close combat sequences. But the story itself feels like an afterthought, and the energy level tends to drop whenever Bridges doesn’t commit his homicide.

Bridges plays Dan Chase, who was once a star agent working in Afghanistan in the 80s. Then he betrayed both his main asset and the Agency and disappeared, building a happy and lucrative life, alongside a woman and a daughter, under an assumed name. When the series begins, he is a widower whose only remaining family seems to be his two Rottweilers, who seem adorably docile until their master’s life is threatened, at which point they become his cold-blooded bodyguards and highly qualified. The dogs come in handy, as does Chase’s rusty but fearsome aptitude for violence, when the government catches up with him and sends an assassin to his charming suburban home. Soon he’s on the run from ex-colleague Harold Harper (Lithgow), now Deputy FBI Director, and Harper’s protege, Angela Adams (Shawkat). He poses as the tenant of lonely divorcee Zoe McDonald’s (Brenneman) guest house while trying to escape murderer Julian Carson (Akinnagbe), whom Harper hires next door because he’s better than his old man. colleague died rather than captured.

This is a perfectly fine thriller setup. And the pragmatic and utterly ruthless Chase is a good showcase role for Bridges at the more taciturn end of his late-career lineup. (Think Against all odds more … than The real courage.) The first two episodes are directed by Jon Watts, and the next two by Greg Yaitanes (banshee, Career), and all are periodically heightened by bursts of remarkably staged and downed heavy fighting. Watts’ Spider-Man films starring Tom Holland don’t feature memorable action, even by the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s oddly lax standards in this area. But these sets tend to be huge with lots of special effects, where these work precisely because of their intimacy. Rather than battling robotic drones atop London Bridge or the Green Goblin on Liberty Island, Dan Chase often wrestles on the kitchen floor with dark-clothed hitmen, and Watts and Yaitanes both do an impressive job. to make septuagenarian cancer survivor Bridges look like the man who would of course win every one of those fights

.

Episode 1 (airs Thursday, June 16) Pictured: John Lithgow as Harold Harper. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

THE OLD MAN —

John Lithgow as Harold Harper. Prashant Gupta/FX It’s when knives and dog fangs don’t flyThe old manbeginning to show the age of its components. Adapted from Perry’s book by Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine, the plot feels warmed up, the twists – especially one that the series clearly thinks will make audience members’ jaws drop – telegraphed well in advance, the characters brought to life more by these handsome actors than by the material given to them. And the flashbacks to Chase’s early years in Afghanistan are extremely nap-worthy, despite the presence of a fine actor in Bill Heck (

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs listen)) as young Chase.The caliber of performers and performances are better able to elevate the material these days, especially in scenes involving Bridges and Brenneman. Their relationship begins as a sort of rehash of his dynamic with Robert De Niro in

Heat , where she is attracted to a charismatic stranger without realizing that he is a wanted man. But the cast’s chemistry is strong, and as the season progresses and Zoe begins to better understand the situation she’s trapped in, her role in things becomes more compelling than cat-and-mouse games. with Harper, or the permanent threat. of Carson. Whenever you put that many great actors in a show, shoot it that well, and feature such strong action, you’re going to get something interesting. But just as Harold Harper still doesn’t understand why his old friend wasted his entire career to go rogue, it’s not hard to watch all the talent gathered for

The old man and wants the show to live up to its full potential.

The Old Man premieres June 16 on FX, with episodes airing weekly and airing the following day on Hulu. I saw the first four of seven episodes.

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