The Old Way

The Old Way
The Old Way
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One thing that shocks me about Nicolas Cage’s filmography is the fact that The Old Way is his first actual Western. By contrast, Brett Donowho’s movie, despite being turgid in its narrative form and resembling the era of DTV films featuring Cage, lacks any surprise.

The opening scene shows Briggs’ talent for winning gunfights with multiple opponents before an ordinary hanging turns into a massacre through shootout. In order to depict a killer, Cage dons Yosemite Sam wiskers and stares like John Wayne (at one point he focuses on the murderer’s son whom Brigss has already dispatched). This moment serves as a warning for what comes next.

After two decades we meet up with him again; however, this time around Colton has retired from bounty hunting and shaved off his beard while living peacefully with his tragic wife Ruth (Kerry Knuppe) and their daughter Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). Nonetheless, James McAllister (Noah Le Gros who is flamboyant but erratic in his performance) appears accompanied by henchmen to avenge his father’s death thus marking the advent of True Grit.

Of all things about The Old Way that annoy me, it does not so much have stylistic ambition or depth because it looks like many similar but better westerns which are considered cheaply made or badly shot: at least those are not as bad. Rather than play one of their trump cards – which they do quite ineffectively – Donowho and Lucas have chosen to sideline some major elements of their story they easily could have tapped into repeatedly.

Either the screenplay, direction or acting causes Colton and Brooke to behave strangely. Initially she spends her time arranging beans meticulously then later perfectly repeats a diatribe made several days ago concerning apples. Through an exceptional campfire dialogue where both Armstrong and Cage give superb performances, Colton connects with Brooke over their shared emotional disabilities. What would have been interesting is to examine how these two people understand their world changing during a period when autism had no name. However, everything goes predictably till the concluding “Let’s do this the old way!” which I find out both irritating and ridiculous. I am not so sure about that given what happened in the last hour and a half though.

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