Review: You can teach Nic Cage new tricks in 'The Old Way'
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2023 at 2:57 PM Central
by John Couture
Nic Cage. Western.
Those are two words that seem incongruous together, but I'm here to tell you that after watching The Old Way, I'm sort of sad that it took Hollywood this long to get Nic Cage in a Western film. To be fair, the genre has been in a bit of a slump since its mini-resurgence around the release of Unforgiven in the early 1990s.
With the onset of Covid, the Western has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance as they tend to be easier to shoot with fewer special effects. Also, there are plenty of scenes set outside in a Western, so they tend to not be super spreader events. And yet, we had to wait until 2023 to get Nic Cage in one.
That is a shame.
Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage (1995, Actor in a Leading Role, LEAVING LAS VEGAS) stars in his first-ever Western as Colton Briggs, a cold-blooded gunslinger turned respectable family man. When an outlaw and his gang put Colton and his family in peril, Colton is forced to take up arms with an unlikely partner — his 12-year-old daughter (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) — in this action-filled film that builds toward its fateful showdown with pulse-pounding suspense.
If there's one thing that always amuses me, it's the disconnect between traditional critics and the average movie fan. For whatever reason, critics look down on Westerns and it's no different for The Old Way. If you happen to visit one of the many critic aggregators online, you'll notice that The Old Way has been panned by critics, but praised by average moviegoers.
As a quasi-critic, I often find myself at odds with my critical peers on films like these. Maybe it's the fact that I'm killing myself to watch as many films as humanly possible in some sort of display of my film bonafides or maybe I'm just a man of the people? Who knows?
What I do know is that I can appreciate a flawed film and enjoy it for what it is and not hold it up to some sort of unreasonable measuring stick that was never meant to encompass it. I mean, this is still Nic Cage that we are talking about, so there's going to be some level of insanity in the film and I'm all about it.
In what I would call a reserved performance from Cage, he's toeing the line between good and evil, vengeance and revenge in this typical Western outlaw movie. I mean if you can't see the parallels to True Grit, then I'm not sure I can help you.
True John Wayne wasn't the girl's biological father in the movie, but he was certainly a surrogate of sorts and similar themes come into play in The Old Way. And yet, there is a certain flair that Nic Cage brings to all of his roles and his fans will not be disappointed.
The central conflict of any good Western centers around law enforcement, or rather the lack thereof. Most Westerns treat the Law as the butt of jokes or buffoons, thus forcing the protagonist to "take the law into their own hands" or some such.
The driving force of The Old Way is the lack of justice for the murder of Briggs' wife, but with the added twist of being left as a single dad having to care for his young daughter. It's rather obvious that Briggs' wife was the center of his world and the impetus for him to renounce his old and violent ways.
Now, Briggs' natural inclination towards vengeance is complicated by the young daughter that he must care for. In typical Western tradition highlighted uniquely by True Grit, Briggs decides to teach his daughter the family business.
Without giving away everything, there are some bumps and twists along the path that make The Old Way both entertaining and compelling. There is plenty of action and violence to satiate even the most die-hard Western fan, but also a deeper fundamental insight into what it meant to be a father in the Old West.
This isn't really an issue that modern films tackle, but as a father myself, I felt compelled to understand what Briggs was going through in his situation. All that said, I'm not sure that I would have the gumption to do what Nic Cage ultimately does in the film, and for that, I must simply applaud the actor and the man.
The Old Way is far from perfect, but it's a good genre film that explores an interesting side of the Old West that many don't pause to consider. Your mileage may vary, but I think if you're a Nic Cage or Western fan, then you'll find plenty to like here.
The Old Way is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.