The Old Way is a film directed by Brett Donowho that is more of a curio than a must-see. It is a film that tries to replicate a few of the most famous and infamous Westerns of the last century, but fails to live up to its promise. This is a by-numbers revenge flick set in the dying days of the old west.
Nicolas Cage stars as Colton Briggs, a gunslinger with a storied past who is forced to reclaim his life by the blood of his son. He has a wife (Ruth) and daughter (Brooke) that he has to take care of. But a new gang of criminals led by James McCallister (Walter Hill) has a vendetta against him and his family. That is not to say that the movie is a slouch. There are some nice touches, such as Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s armory, and the performance of Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Colton’s young daughter. However, the film is marred by a clumsy helmsmanship that only serves to highlight the shortcomings of the script.
The film is also plagued by a misstep in its execution. While it has some interesting moments, it is not the type of film you want to watch with the kids. The screenplay by Carl W. Lucas has some wacky lines, like a character stating that “the only rule of thumb is that it takes more shots to make a good gun than it does to shoot a bad one.” Fortunately, there is a likable villain in the form of James McCallister who is up to his neck in a vendetta.
One of the coolest aspects of the film is the cinematography. The quality is high but the framing is a bit too close to the lens, as is the lighting. As a result, the scenes feel a bit rushed, especially the opening minutes, when a group of armed gunmen are ambushed. In the end, The Old Way fails to rekindle the interest in the genre, which had a heyday in the 1980s.
Having said that, the best part of this film is the central performance of Nicolas Cage. The grizzled veteran is able to perform well as both a gunfighter and a father. Despite some of the movie’s pacing shortcomings, the actor proves that he is still the man to watch.
Other notable performances come from Howard Milner as Eustice and Walter Hill as Big Mike. Combined with the above mentioned performance, it’s a wonder that this flick was able to find the funding it needed to make the cut. Unlike most of its contemporaries, however, the film tries to make up for its shortfalls with a strong soundtrack, which helps to elevate it above the standard genre fare.
The Old Way is not a perfect film. It isn’t a bad effort, and it has its moments, but it never manages to achieve the swashbuckling success it was hoping to achieve. Unfortunately, it lacks the narrative heft to make it a truly memorable experience.