Nicolas Cage is probably one of the most versatile actors out there. From the darker “Pig” to the Sci-Fi movie “Colour Out of Space” and from the fantasy “Mandy” to the adventure film “National Treasure”. Last year, he even released “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”, a movie half-biopic/half-fiction but 100% entertainment. However, one thing he never did, was go to the Far Far West. That is until now! Cage is finally loading up his saddlebags and holstering a revolver or two in the latest movie by director Brett Donowho (“Acts of Violence”, “5 Souls”). While “The Old Way” certainly doesn’t turn the Western genre on its head, it’s still a fairly enjoyable and wonderfully made film.
Despite being a cold-hearted and trigger-happy cowboy in his previous life, Colton Briggs (Cage) has now become a family man. He’s married to Ruth (Kerry Knuppe), with whom he has a young daughter Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and he runs the local grocery store. He has left the violent life behind, but sadly, those dark, bloody days aren’t done with him.
One day, when he walks Brooke into school, Ruth is brutally captured and murdered by four men led by James McCallister (Noah Le Gros). While she doesn’t know this escaped convict, her husband certainly does. Colton killed McCallister’s father twenty years ago, and now the son is out for revenge. The brutal murder of his wife leaves Briggs with no option but to take his daughter and hunt down the men behind the killing.
That cat and mouse game couldn’t have been more clichéd, and the same can be said about the whole story. There are the expected scenes in which Briggs teaches his daughter everything he knows about being a cowboy; there are the grandiose (but dull) monologues and the way-too-long shoutout scenes. In previous years, the Western genre had significant success, and we understand why Donowho wanted to explore it. However, we miss a lot of personality and vitality in the story. “The Old Way” would have been so much better if it was a bit different from other Western stories.
Saying that one actor is why people check out a certain isn’t always the best thing to do, but in this case, it’s crystal clear that Cage is the main draw of this movie. While his performance might not be 100% Cage-ish, he still delivers excellent, dramatic, intense acting. Taking a generic story and giving your personality to it isn’t easy, but that’s precisely what he does.
Despite her young age, Armstrong (“Firestarter”, “The Tomorrow War”) portrays Brooke with a lot of grace and emotions. Thanks to her wonderful performance and Cage’s charisma, this movie has many heart-warming scenes between a father and daughter to offer. Sadly, in some moments, Armstrong’s performance falls flat, but we’re sure that once she gets more acting experience, those moments won’t exist anymore. She certainly has a bright future, and if she had gotten a better story, she would have been able to outshine Cage in “The Old Way”.
While writer Carl W. Lucas (“The Wave”) should have put more thought into the script, the cinematography and production designs were created with a lot of passion, flair and love. Cinematographer Sion Michel (“Laura Smiles”, “Like a Dream”) uses the authentic Western action style, making the countryside the perfect setting for a good Western movie.
The authenticity is being heightened even more thanks to the excellent production design by Tessla Hastings (“Butcher’s Crossing”, “Murder at Yellowstone City”). Think of big saloons, wooden houses, creaking swing doors, etc. While the score doesn’t always work, especially when it overpowers the emotional scenes, the old-fashion score still provides “The Old Way” with some strong moments.
When watching “The Old Way”, you’ll see that this movie doesn’t bring something new to the Western table. Mainly due to the flat and generic storyline. Nevertheless, this movie is still an enjoyable work, thanks to the delightful performances by Cage and Armstrong, their chemistry and the beautiful work of the set designs, cinematographer and composers.
13th January 2023
Carl W. Lucas
THE QUICK SELL
An old gunslinger and his daughter must face the consequences of his past, when the son of a man he murdered years ago arrives to take his revenge.