They just don’t make ’em like they used to, though they try.
The Old Way is a by-the-books Western, distinguished only by being Nicolas Cage’s “first” out-and-out foray into the genre.1
When we first encounter outlaw Colton Briggs (Cage, complete with droopy mustache), he’s watching a public hanging preceded over by his employer, a self-righteous local bigwig. A gunfight breaks out. Briggs, taking his time, eventually gets involved – with deadly, decisive efficiency.
His bad-ass bonafides clearly established, we pick up with Briggs some years later. Briggs2 has settled down with obligatory lovely wife, Ruth (Kerry Knuppe), and precocious daughter Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and runs the local store, although his customer service could do with some work. He’s taciturn, non-communicative, constantly looks like he’s weighing up a fart.
Trouble arrives in the form of a gang of outlaws led by one James McAllister (Noah Le Gros in polite, smiley Southern villain mode), seeking vengeance on Briggs for a past transgression. When trouble rides out, Ruth is dead and husband and daughter follow after in a sort of UNO Reverse revenge.
The Old Way‘s script, written by Carl W. Lucas, is part Unforgiven (sins of the past), part True West (a multi-generational ride-out), but has little character beyond this. It also gives Cage, its main selling point, little to play with other than dour intensity.3. Its one intriguing addition is the notion that sociopathy might be hereditary – Brooke, like Colton, is devoid of empathy – but this is just another element subsumed within the genre trappings.
In a neat bit of in-casting, Justified‘s Nick Searcy once more plays a US Marshall, a former acquaintance of Briggs with whom he comes into conflict, whose main job seems to be relating backstory from the “Why are you telling me this?” school of exposition. Clint Howard is the panicky, incompetent, ex-Confederate member of McAllister’s troupe.4
Brett Donowho’s proficient direction can’t elevate the predictable material, and while the film is technically well-executed, The Old Way feels like a story we’ve seen a thousand times before, disregarding the new in favour of the familiar. When your film contains a scene involving a villainous brigand and a brave little girl that’s essentially cribbed from the pilot of Lancer, and homaged in Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, maybe you should consider a new story, or at least a different way of telling it.
In cinemas and available on Altitude.film and other digital platforms from 13th January
- Though the more prestigious Butcher’s Crossing, which filmed first and played Toronto last year, is due in cinemas later this year
- Looking confusingly younger minus the ‘tasche.
- Though the thousand-yard stare impenetrable hostility in his line delivery of “A cake?” is certainly something.
- Otherwise rounded out by Shiloh Fernandez’s crack-shot and Abraham Benrubi’s sinister giant.