For all the yeses we get from Nicolas Cage, we can often bank on getting the most bang for our buck. Regardless of the project, Cage (for better or worse) can never be accused of phoning it in even the film and everyone else around him is doing just that. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with “The Old Way,” a below average western that can’t overcome its cliche ridden script and squanders the one thing that could elevate it to schlocky western fun: Cage himself. I can’t recall a time where I was ever bored by a Nic Cage performance.
Sure, his project selection is less than stellar and often competes with Gerard Butler for who can say yes the most. But “The Old Way” is miss on just about every level, including Cage himself who can’t overcome the films glaring shortcomings, snail pacing, and incomprehensible script.
Directed by Brett Donowho from a script by Carl W. Lucas, “The Old Way” stars Cage as Colton Briggs, a ruthless gunslinger who puts his past behind him to raise a family on a remote ranch. Of course, no one is ever truly out of the game, and Briggs past comes back to haunt him, claiming the life of his wife and forcing him to go back on the hunt with his 12 year old daughter in tow. Briggs must confront his past while protecting his daughter, all while evading capture from the authorities for seeking vigilante justice and not fall into a trap from the gang that coaxed him out of hiding.
By its very synopsis, “The Old Way” sounds like an AI bot was tasked with writing a western. It sadly plays out that way too, cramming just about every trope you can imagine from every western made before it with little to no craft or skillful execution. That’s not to say that Donowho is completely incapable of good filmmaking, just that here he only demonstrates that he knows how to borrow instead of transform and elevate. It’s all well and fine to make a western comprised of others, but it can’t escape the sum of its parts, leading to a rather dull and predictable narrative. And again, Donowho doesn’t really know what to do with Cage, which boxes him in and manages to make him the most uninteresting gunslinger this side of of the Mississippi.
Inexplicably, the outlaw gang pitted against Briggs is played for laughs. A collection of buffoons who feel ripped out of a “The Three Stooges” sketch, they all feel wildly out of place in “The Old Way.” Noah Le Gros as gang’s leader seems to be the only one who understood the assignment, hamming it up in all the ways you would expect from Cage and relishing in his devious plotting. Gros is about the only good thing in “The Old Way,” but that’s more due to him giving everything he has to elevate a rather flat character despite no one else really trying to do the same. The film plods along at an excruciating pace, and ends as abruptly as it began. No one is given anything meaningful to say or do, and Donowho doesn’t seem to be able to maximize his small budget to overcome its restraints.
It is also incredibly concerning that the prop handler here was also the prop handler for “Rust.” Though no fatal incident occurred on this set, there was at least one discharge that caused Cage to walk off set during filming. Though not entirely relevant to the film itself, it does make you question why this film was released in the first place. I get burying it in middle of January and giving it little no marketing, but releasing a bad movie with the foreknowledge of tragic events that followed it is in extremely bad taste. “The Old Way” just doesn’t have enough going for it to justify its existence, more so when you consider its place in the larger picture.
Even for a January release, this film pushes the limits of what we accept from the top of the year duds. Disjointed, messy, and downright boring, “The Old Way” already makes a strong case for one of the worst movie watching experiences of the year.
Of course, Saban Films should’ve been my first clue that this was going to be rough. I just didn’t expect “The Old Way” to be THIS rough. Holster your pistols and saddle up- this will have you stretching early and telling everyone it’s high time you hit the old dusty trail as far away from this one as possible.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Stars
“The Old Way” is now playing in select theaters and available to rent or buy on VOD. You can watch the trailer below.