Past actions come back to haunt Nicolas Cage in this 2023 western about…well…'western’ pretty much covers it. In The Old Way, revenge, hard living, and redemption all jostle with subdued energy as former hard-nosed gunfighter Colton Briggs (Cage, Pig) finds the life he built for himself burned to the ground.
The fact that a good chunk of westerns trade off the well worn plot device of consequences and revenge certainly doesn’t prevent them from being good.
Briggs may be a husband, father, and respectable shopkeeper now but he is due to fall prey to a vendetta from someone past wronged.
What Is The Old Way About?
After criminal James McAllister (Noah Le Gros) tears apart Briggs’ life, the movie tracks Cage and daughter Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) as they follow in McAllister’s footsteps to repay the pain he has wrought.
Along the way there are some tussles with the law and some rather strained bonding. Neither Colton nor Brooke are particularly communicative, and both struggle to express the turmoil within.
The chemistry between Cage and Armstrong is the one thing that marks The Old Way out from its peers. Although they had no word for it then, it is clear to modern audiences that both characters are on the autistic spectrum.
By far the best scene is a fireside talk between father and daughter, where Colton methodically explains to Brooke that she will have to observe others and fake their behaviour in order to be accepted.
Unfortunately this glimmer of interest is barely expounded upon, which seems a missed opportunity.
The Old Way Official Trailer
Is The Old Way Worth Watching?
Aside from a fun scene which must surely contain the most entertaining attempt at crying put to film, the rest of the movie plays out with the usual structure.
Le Gros’ antagonist McAllister has little by way of distinguishing characteristics. Even his posse of contemporaries is somewhat baffling.
Why should he keep company with the elderly and mistake riddled Eustice (Clint Howard)? No idea.
Despite a little strained comic relief, these bad guys aren’t bad enough nor fearful enough to garner much narrative release when the final stand takes place.
Briggs sees Cage at the stone faced edge of his range. He pulls out words like teeth giving him pain. His steely determination just about carries the film along its predictable path of guns and plans gone awry.
As The Old Way never strides into darker territory there is little opportunity for Cage to clench his jaw at the circumstances around him.
The Old Way delivers a competent if uninspiring tale of cookie cutter western bits, with brief intriguingly misshapen crunches coming from Cage and Armstrong’s dispassionate take on the world.
But as the dust settles and the credits roll you will struggle to find just cause not to plug for a new way after all.
Words by Mike Record
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