The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - THE OLD WAY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - THE OLD WAY

The Old Way review
A former gunslinger and his young daughter set off down a path of vengeance.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Brett Donowho

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Noah Le Gros, Clint Howard, Kerry Knuppe, Nick Searcy, Shiloh Fernandez

The Old Way poster

While the western may have long fallen out of favour in mainstream Hollywood, the genre has undergone something of a minor revival over the last decade thanks to the content hungry straight to VOD market. This has seen the return of the B-western, as American indie filmmakers take advantage of their country's landscape and the various rental outfits that can kit a production out with authentic weaponry, sets and costumes for a reasonable price. Such movies rarely boast star names, though you might occasionally find the likes of Kiefer Sutherland of Chritian Slater popping up on horseback, but director Brett Donowho has landed Nicolas Cage to front his revenge western The Old Way.

The Old Way review

Despite having such a packed filmography, Cage has never appeared in a western before, which tells you something about how unfashionable a genre it is in the modern age. Here he plays a classic western archetype, the gunslinger turned respectable citizen who finds himself forced to load his pistol and return to the life he swore he'd leave behind.

After a prologue that flashes back to a violent incident from the life left behind by Cage's Colton Briggs, we find him in the film's present where he's married with a 12-year-old daughter, the precocious Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). One morning the surly Briggs finds himself stuck with Brooke when it turns out her school has closed for the day. Brooke helps out at the convenience store he runs. In a scene that feels inspired by countless rock star anecdotes, she sorts the jelly beans into separate jars based on individual colours.

The Old Way review

While Briggs is minding the store, a quartet of bandits led by James McAllister (Noah Le Gros) rocks up to his home and murders his missus. Returning home, Briggs and Brooke find the local Marshall Jarret (Nick Searcy) tending to the scene before warning Briggs not to get any big ideas about taking revenge. Of course, Briggs isn't the sort of man to leave such matters to the law, and this isn't that type of movie, so he sets off to find McAllister, reluctantly allowing Brooke to tag along.

What follows is a movie that feels like it's aiming for a hybrid of Henry Hathaway's True Grit and Luc Besson's Leon, as the initially burdensome Brooke wins over her gruff father through her surprising gunslinging abilities and quick wits. It never quite rises to meet its ambitions, largely down to the miscasting of Cage. Known for his over-acting, Cage is cast as a taciturn, insular man here, far from his strengths, and his performance is just plain odd. There's one moment where he's allowed to let loose, going off on a rant about how soft people succumb to tears, and it's completely out of whack with the tone of the rest of the movie. Briggs is the sort of role that's crying out for an actor like Kevin Costner, someone who can keep telling and showing the audience that he's not worthy of our empathy, but who gains it regardless through sheer force of quiet charisma. There's a nicely written campfire monologue in which Briggs talks about how the one thing that separates him from everyone else is that the concept of fear is alien to him. The scene is played flatly by Cage, who doesn't seem to understand the sort of character he's inhabiting, and you're left to wonder how impactful it might have been if performed by a Costner or Eastwood.

The Old Way review

Despite Cage's flaws, The Old Way manages to be an engaging enough b-western, the sort of movie they used to call a "programmer." Donowho and writer Carl W. Lucas appear au fait with this sort of fare, and they display a talent for economical filmmaking of the sort found in the classic b-westerns of the genre's 1930s-50s golden age. When it seems we're in for the usual tired old scene where the gunslinger teaches the kid how to shoot, Donowho surprises us by omitting the expected shtick and simply cutting to Brooke wearing a hat with a pair of bullet-holes. This tells us she's mastered the art of having a good aim without making us sit through a routine we've seen a hundred times before.

The glue that holds the film together is Armstrong's performance. There are scenes that she rescues from Cage's somnambulist performance by injecting an energy curiously absent from her older co-star's turn. Ultimately it's Armstrong's film, and without making it explicit, the young actress does enough to suggest that she knows it too.

The Old Way
 is in UK cinemas and available on and other digital platforms from 13th January.

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