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What’s streaming this week: In The Old Man, Jeff Bridges adds going full Neeson to his particular set of skills

The Old Man is a little long, a little clunky and the dialogue is far too complicated for its own good, but Bridges lights it up


Jeff Bridges as Dan Chase in The Old Man on Disney+. Photo by Prashant Gupta/FX

Jeff Bridges as Dan Chase in The Old Man on Disney+. Photo by Prashant Gupta/FX

Jeff Bridges as Dan Chase in The Old Man on Disney+. Photo by Prashant Gupta/FX

Who would win in a fight: Jeff Bridges or Liam Neeson? It’s difficult to tell, really. This time last week, the question hadn’t entered my mind. Now, after watching a couple of episodes of The Old Man (Disney+, weekly), it’s all I can think about.

Incidentally, Liam Neeson has nothing whatsoever to do with this seven-part series. But it’s exactly the sort of thing that Ballymena’s finest would usually sign up for.

Taking its cue from a Thomas Perry novel, this murky, mysterious offering does, in fact, concern an old man, winningly portrayed by Bridges. His name is Dan Chase, and — like all of Neeson’s best characters — Dan has a tricky past, boasts a very particular set of skills and is concerned for his daughter’s safety. He also comes with canine sidekicks.

Watch as our burly, bearded action man takes to the desert for a bone-crunching round of epic fisticuffs. Rejoice as Dan knocks seven shades out of younger opponents and spits threatening words down the phone to their boss. Yep, this is Bridges’ big Taken moment, and guess what? It suits him.

When we first meet Dan, a former CIA operative who angered his government and absconded with their secrets, he’s living alone, off the grid, in upstate New York with his two dogs, Dave and Carol. His wife, Abbey (Hiam Abbass), died five years ago from a degenerative brain disease, and poor Dan is plagued with nightmares of her worst days. He’s a tad worried, too, about what other surprises life has in store.

One night, an armed intruder breaks into his house. Dave and Carol sort him out, and our grumbling protagonist puts a bullet in the trespasser’s chest. This was no ordinary break-in — and, after submitting a false police statement, Dan packs a bag, hops in his car and makes a dash for the next set of hills. Alas, he has a tail.

Eventually an old friend, FBI honcho Harold Harper (John Lithgow, excellent), gets in touch to let him know what’s what.

Long story short, the lads crossed paths during the Soviet-Afghan War. All you need to know is that things took a turn after Dan sided with and subsequently angered an Afghan warlord.

Now, all these years later, someone is out to get revenge (it’s probably the warlord) and Harper, who’s hiding his own secrets, is nervous about what else they’ll uncover.

By the end of episode two, Harper has arranged for a hitman to assassinate Dan. Oh, and I haven’t yet mentioned the romantic interest (our handsome fugitive rents a room from Amy Brenneman’s Zoe McDonald, things get soppy) or Harper’s observant protégée (keep a close eye on Alia Shawkat’s Angela Adams).

Yep, it’s a busy set-up, and Spider-Man director Jon Watts works hard to keep a tight grip on a knotted screenplay by Jonathan E Steinberg and Robert Levine. They’re lucky to have Bridges on their team. I have no doubt that if it wasn’t for The Dude’s involvement, we probably wouldn’t watch The Old Man.

It’s a little long, a little clunky and the dialogue is far too complicated for its own good. But Bridges lights it up. On a handful of occasions, his steady, naturalistic charm elevates what is an otherwise run-of-the-mill thriller with notions.

Indeed, The Old Man thinks it’s prestige telly — it’s not. But a 72-year-old Bridges, who battled a life-threatening combo of cancer and Covid throughout production, almost takes it there.

Meanwhile, Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan’s sensationally grim true-crime saga Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (Netflix) is every bit as icky as you’ve heard. Listen, there are a lot of problems with this thing. The three-in-one title, for instance, suggests a series in dire need of proper management.

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True, it’s well acted and Evan Peters loses himself entirely with a committed central turn as the so-called Milwaukee Cannibal, one of America’s most notorious serial killers. But crikey, it’s a tough watch. It’s also an uncomfortably exploitative endeavour that pushes way too hard with its grisly enactments of real-life horrors. You do not need this show in your life.

Thai Cave Recue (Netflix) is the second series this week that should have tried harder with its title. You know what happened here. Yes, it’s another screen retelling of the 2018 Tham Luang Nang Non rescue (the best is Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives, over on Prime).

No, it doesn’t cover the same old details — this six-part series was granted access to the Wild Boars soccer team whose members got trapped in the cave and slowly reconstructs the entire ordeal from the kids’ perspective. But is it any use?

Its heart is in the right place, but I’m two episodes in, and already this hammy and annoyingly heavy-handed melodrama is beginning to feel unnecessarily bloated. What a shame.

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