New in theaters, On Demand, and digital from RLJE Films!
OLD MAN (2022)
Directed by Lucky McKee.
Written by Joel Veach.
Starring Stephen Lang, Marc Senter, Liana Wright-Mark, Patch Darragh
In a small house in the middle of a forested mountain range lives an elderly recluse (Stephen Lang). He is visited by a stranger (Marc Senter). At first, neither trusts each other, but the longer the stranger stays, the more both of them become comfortable enough to tell deep, dark secrets to one another.
I’ve been an uber-fan of Lucky McKee for ages. MAY blew me away. And if there was any of me left standing, THE WOMAN succeeded in flooring me. While he didn’t direct it, ROMAN, directed by McKee’s often collaborator Angela Bettis, also was a terrifying descent into man’s darkest nightmares. McKee delves into similar territory with OLD MAN, but unfortunately, I felt pretty underwhelmed by the effort. But that doesn’t mean OLD MAN isn’t without some postiives.
Stephen Lang is a treasure of an actor. Rendering himself almost unrecognizable from one film to the next, you always get an intensity achieved by few others in his performances. As the old man, Lang channels a bit of his character from the DON’T BREATHE films, as both characters are hermits and hard men who have seen many bad things and done worse. Aside from the fact that the old man has his sight, the characters are almost interchangeable. Still, Lang gives the old man a lot of unusual tendencies, a vicious sense of humor, and a whole lot of paranoia to distinguish the two characters. While the film is flawed, I feel it is not because of Lang’s lack of trying because he offers up some amazing character work here.
Mark Senter also holds his own with the powerhouse that is Lang. While he seems harmless, Senter’s stranger character never shows all of his cards until the very end. His performance is more restrained. He’s basically the straight man here, reacting against the old man’s eccentricities, but he still manages to offer up a strange menace, whether you believe the old man’s paranoia or not. Both performances work well and I found it compelling to watch the two back and forth for the duration of the film.
The problem is that this most likely was a pandemic filmed movie, meaning it is low scale, low budget, low fi. While I like those types of films, I think the story was pared back to the barest of bones, which doesn’t do the film any favors. This feels like a decent TWILIGHT ZONE episode, but doesn’t have enough meat on it to be a full length. And like those hour long TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, stretching the concept sometimes makes for a tough watch. I feel a lot of OLD MAN is spent treading water. Sure the stories the two are telling each other are interesting, but it felt like it was simply taking up runtime until the other shoe drops in the final act. And when it did, the final shoe drop felt cliched and not worth the extended build up.
I can’t really fault McKee for this. For what OLD MAN is, it looks good. The acting is top tier. The inside of the cabin where all of the action plays out is filled with odd bric-a-brac that makes the place feel like it contains a thousand stories. And the musical score was eerie and effective, as most of McKee’s films are. I just think this is a rare miss for McKee, who has proved to be a director I’ll watch no matter what. Everyone’s allowed a miss every now and then, and while OLD MAN was a noble effort by all, it just didn’t work for me due to the flimsy story. I’m still a huge McKee fan though and eagerly await what the talented director has up his sleeve next.