A gunslinger with a troubled past hunts the men who killed his wife, with young daughter riding shotgun, in The Old Way, an agreeably old-fashioned western starring Nicolas Cage now available for rent or purchase on streaming services worldwide.
The Old Way gets a significant boost thanks to an effectively subdued performance form Cage as the old gunslinger drawn back into violence, and particularly Ryan Kiera Armstrong as the determined daughter who demands to take part in his vengeance. Their growing relationship is richly detailed, and recalls similar work in the Tom Hanks western News of the World.
An unfortunately misplaced opening prologue, meanwhile, sets a wobbly tone: Cage’s Colton Briggs, sporting a ridiculous 70s porn stache, mercilessly kills a convict in front of his young son a la Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West. Meet The Old Way’s stoic hero.
Twenty years later, Cage has settled down with a wife Ruth (Kerry Knuppe) and daughter Brooke (Armstrong), leaving his violent past behind in order to run a small town general store. But his past catches up to him when the boy from the opening scene, now a ruthless outlaw, happens to stumble upon Briggs’ home when his wife is alone… and enacts some incidental revenge during his run from the law.
We know where The Old Way is headed from this point, and there are few surprises along the way as Colton and his daughter follow in the footsteps of the law (represented by Nick Searcy‘s Marshal Jarrett) to track down the villainous outlaw and his gang.
But The Old Way’s villain, James McCallister (Noah Le Gros), lacks the hard edge that would make this journey truly satisfying. The opening prologue humanizes his character, and Le Gros plays things big and broad, never really earning our resentment.
It doesn’t help that his crew is even less intimidating. Gentle giant Big Mike (Abraham Benrubi) and old codger Eustice (Clint Howard) are largely played for laughs, and only slick sharpshooter Boots (Shiloh Fernandez, who should have been cast as the lead villain) offers any kind of real menace.
Directed by Brett Donowho (2018’s Bruce Willis thriller Acts of Violence) from a screenplay by Carl W. Lucas, The Old Way is neither captivating cinema nor something bad enough to derive some ironic enjoyment from; to his credit, Cage has done a better job of choosing his projects in recent years.
Instead, The Old Way really is the kind of western they just don’t make anymore. Thanks to its committed central performances – especially from Armstrong as the daughter – and often gorgeous cinematography under the mountains of Montana and at the Yellowstone Film Ranch, The Old Way is likely to satisfy undemanding viewers that might be interested in this kind of thing.
The Old Way is the first of two Cage westerns to debut in 2023, with Butcher’s Crossing set to release in March. They represent the first two westerns in Cage’s impressive list of acting credits, but in The Old Way, at least, the actor feels as at home on the range as Randolph Scott.
According to The Wrap, Cage walked off the set of The Old Way after an incident involving weapons being fired, allegedly shouting “make an announcement, you just blew my fucking eardrums out!” at armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. Gutierrez-Reed would later be the armorer on Rust, the production that resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after an accidental firearms discharge.