Nicolas Cage superimposes the old John Wayne archetype with a hint of neurotic diversity, but The Old Way lacks the ambition to follow through on its ideas.
Nicolas Cage Scholars may dispute the promotional claim that Brett Donohue “the old wayis the actor’s “traditional first Western” — a choice of words that is careful not to meddle with neo-genre acts like “Butcher Crossing” and “Prisoners of the Ghost Land” — but this simple revenge story is nothing if not conventional, and even less when it tries to be anything else.
The first part of the problem is that Donowho’s short but unmasked oats don’t have enough fresh meat on her bones to fill her Western costume. While Morgan Smith does its best to evoke memories of “My Darling Clementine,” and Carl W. Lucas’ shabby script leads to the same one-way modernity that “Sheen” once rode toward an uncertain sunset, “The Old Way” clearly lacks the ambition to shoot any his own identity.
Even worse, he’s pointing at someone anyway, as this low-budget genre allows its characters just enough ammo to wish they had more interesting goals or Donowho himself did better. A DTV veteran who’s taken a half-step from the likes of “No Tell Motel” and the Bruce Willis vehicle “Acts of Violence,” the director embraces the eccentricity of his leading man to some extent — Cage’s widowed cowboy struggles with the same natural spunk that John Wayne wore like a badge. Mayor, his low-key performance always alludes to the fact that people were on the autism spectrum long before a term was invented for it — but his film is too informative to bother looking West from any unexpected angles, and seems disinterested in examining any tension breakdowns she finds. Between old ways and new perspectives.
In this light, perhaps the best that can be said about The Old Way is that its extreme lack of ambition allows it to shy away from pretentiousness. For every Ford glimpse of a girl sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, there’s a shot of Clint Howard getting kicked in the balls (if Horizon is always in the right place!). The opening scene lays all its cards on the table with a clarity that assures you that the text has no ace in its sleeve. Unfeeling gunslinger Colton Briggs (Cage) brings a man to justice in the town square as the party’s guilty young son watches with a twinkle in his eye.
20 years later, when Colton has rebranded himself as the owner of the local store in his hometown, devoted husband to his wife (Keri Knopp), and semi-absentee father to pre-teen daughter Brooke (Ryan Keira). Armstrong). The little kid from the front? He’s a man now (Noah Llogros as James McCallister), and he’s convinced by a group of privileged goons to help him get revenge on Colton for killing his father. Little do they know that Colton is the closest thing 19th-century Montana has to John Wick, or that killing his wife is like signing their own death warrants. They certainly don’t suspect that Colton might not even be the most dangerous member of his family.
The hook is not only that Colton has reformed his (old) ways, but that the world around him has. Civilization has bet on the West in the 20 years between when this movie starts and when it comes back again, and people don’t kill each other for sport that much anymore. Colton doesn’t bother fighting the tide (“We’re not going back!” he insists, with a conviction beyond context), but he clearly had an easier time fitting into the fabric of things again when the West rewarded his biochemical bravery. Colton really doesn’t know how to relate to his daughter, and he’s made more uncomfortable with the fear of losing her mother – the only fear he’ll ever know. Dying on the inside was his greatest strength, and when his wife is murdered in cold blood, Colton finds himself dead on the inside again (to the point where it looks like he might shoot his daughter to eliminate his last remaining weaknesses).
The steely Armstrong holds herself against the recessive cage (his performance is closer to “The Pig” than the Cameron Poe-served overtones in the beginning), and it’s fun to watch Brooke begin to appreciate her act as a kind of her own strength. Maybe Colton can’t relate to it like a “normal” father, but the fact that he can relate to it all through the episodes is progressive in a time when only men were supposed to snort at their kids, and “the old way” is never better than in the gasps. sporadic when he watches these characters work towards their own common ground (a mutual understanding spurred by a smoldering monologue in one scene that allows Cage to show his teeth).
Sadly, there’s not much to hold on to as The Old Way meanders through a dull series of shootouts, losing its edges under a thick layer of digital gloss. It’s fun to see “ER” vet Abraham Benrubi do some bumbling henchmen alongside breakout millennials like Shiloh Fernandez – not least because their characters are respectively named Big Mike and Boots – but the villains never amount to anything more. Of human bait, because they are trapped with us in a West that ignores almost every opportunity it gets to avoid the most obvious choice. Colton Briggs was born “dead on the inside,” and while an account of this condition allows his daughter the chance for a different kind of life, “The Old Way” never puts in the work required to find a pulse of its own.
Saban Films will release “The Old Way” in theaters on Friday, January 6. It will be available on VOD on Friday, January 13th.