The Old Way
by George Wolf
Nic Cage brings a Brimley-approved mustache and an itchy trigger finger to the The Old Way as Colton Briggs, meanest lowdown killer the Wild West ever saw.
But after an opening standoff that leaves plenty men dead and one young eyewitness without a father, director Brett Donowho jumps ahead twenty years, when the ‘stache is gone and…
…And a good woman has tamed this outlaw into a family man?
That’s right. Colton and his wife Ruth (Kerry Knuppe) run the Briggs Mercantile, while their pensive daughter Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong from American Horror Story and last year’s Firestarter) looks for ways to challenge her smarts and curiosity.
So while Carl W. Lucas’s script scrapes together just enough reason for Colton to take a turn walking Brooke to school…
…Some gunslingers with an old score to settle pay a call to Mrs. Briggs, giving Mr. Briggs a mighty good reason to get out his guns and seek vengeance?
Right again. And though Ruth tells James McAllister (Noah Le Gros) and his crew that “you boys have woke up the devil!”, a face-to-face showdown is just what McAllister is after.
Obviously, nothing here is breaking any ground in the genre, as the real draw is Cage playing a grizzled killer in the Old West. He’s fine, just don’t expect any unhinged Caginess. Briggs is an always-restrained coil of intensity, as Donowho and Lucas instead try to craft some emotional heft from a father teaching his daughter the way of the gun.
Armstrong is clearly a talent, but both she and Cage are up against a script that leans too heavily on stilted, explanatory dialog and cliched exclamations (“You’re bringin’ Hell down on us, Jimmy!”). We’re told too much about who these people are without seeing enough to really care about them.
And by the time that showdown in the middle of a dusty trail finally plays out, what we do see doesn’t make for a memorable payoff.
It’s Nic Cage in a Western, so there are possibilities here. But The Old Way is too content to fall back on the old tropes to blaze anything at all.