Old Man, 2022.
Directed by Lucky McKee.
Starring Stephen Lang, Marc Senter, Patch Darragh, and Liana Wright-Mark.
When a lost hiker stumbles upon an erratic old man living in the woods, he could never have imagined the nightmare that awaits.
An old man is jolted awake agape, presumably by a nightmare. That’s how director Lucky McKee opens Old Man, which benefits from a scenery-chewing gonzo performance from Stephen Lang.
Living in an isolated cabin cooped up in the mountains, the nameless titular old man frantically scrambles about, searching for his dog that must have run off in the night. It’s an extended sequence that allows Stephen Lang to establish the unhinged kookiness of the character while viewers survey the cramped, dusty, and dirty surroundings filled with shelves and bottles.
The above goes on for nearly 10 minutes but, like most of Old Man, remains engaging only because Stephen Lang is aware giving an unapologetically nutty performance that plays into senility, paranoia, and crazed menace is the only possible way to save Joel Veach’s transparent script.
A lost hiker named Joe (Marc Senter) arrives, with the old man putting up his guard and retrieving his shotgun to question him on various topics. Even though Joe is confused and scared, there’s also something unmistakably off about him as he is forced to continue listening and interacting with the old man.
For the first 30 minutes, these conversations are relatively compelling, touching on whether or not the old man intends to hurt Joe and a vague summary of what brought Joe out here. After a small level of trust is established, Joe believes the old man that a nasty storm is coming and that there is no choice but to stay the night.
Director Lucky McKee is coaching these actors to get the most cinematic turns possible for all of the material, but Joel Veach’s script is so talky that once the two characters get into a deep discussion or to, it’s laughably obvious what game the movie is playing here. Then it becomes painful, considering there are no intentions to reveal those cards until the final 20 minutes.
Old Man is a 97-minute movie that drastically needs to be cut down into a lean 70 minutes that ramps up the intensity of these dialogue exchanges so that the plot twist is masked. The twist is unquestionably telegraphed and easy to pick up, doubly so what the film’s lethargic pacing. There’s also a case to be made that this would work better as a stage play, albeit with a serious writing overhaul.
Without saying too much, there is a turn into mysticism that feels hollow and barely developed. It’s one thing for the big picture of this story to be picked up on relatively early, but other elements of Old Man feel as if everyone is making things up as they go. An attempted message about spiritual healing falls flat, as does commentary on religion.
Stephen Lang and Marc Senter have some tense chemistry together, but Old Man is primarily a slog that leaves you feeling like an old man when you come out the other side.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com