Donowho’s Standard American Western Has Heart & Humor
Feb 9, 2023
Home Movie Reviews The Old Way Review: Donowho’s Standard American Western Has Heart & Humor
Brett Donowho’s western tale follows a typical formula, but there are plenty of laughs and smiles to be had throughout this familiar story.
Ryan Kiera Armstrong and Nicolas Cage in The Old Way
Academy Award winner and charismatic method actor Nicolas Cage has had a longstanding history of taking on dynamic roles. From dramas and horror films to action thrillers and superhero movies, Cage has shown that his talents extend far and wide across genres. Surprisingly, the decorated actor has never taken on a western until his role in The Old Way. Directed by Brett Donowho from a screenplay by Carl W. Lucas, Cage plays a vengeful gunslinger drawn out of retirement to track down his wife’s killers. Donowho’s western tale follows a typical formula, but there are plenty of laughs and smiles to be had throughout this familiar story.
Nic Cage stars as Colton Briggs, the infamous and cold-blooded gunfighter with a track record of being smarter than his enemies and getting the job done by any means necessary. That all comes to a halt when he meets Ruth (Kerry Knuppe), whom he marries and shares a daughter, the young and courageous Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). When Briggs’ past comes back to haunt him in the form of a grand vengeance scheme, he travels across town with Brooke to track down his wife’s killers. Together, they learn more about each other while rebuilding their connection as father and daughter, sharing memories about Ruth that would give them strength to carry on.
Related: Brett Donowho Interview: The Old Way
The Old Way is a familiar revenge tale that overlays a heartwarming father-daughter adventure, making for an engaging American western. While tip-toeing around standard genre tropes, Lucas’ screenplay offers an appealing dynamic between Colton and his daughter that grounds his story with humanity. As with many westerns, a revenge mission initiated by the bandit James McAllister (Noah Le Gros) impacts all the main characters in different ways. But the script nicely balances the various perspectives and provides these characters the opportunity to grow outside the standard “kill or be killed” personalities to ones who care about family and wellbeing.
All that said, the greatest thing standing in the way of The Old Way is its inability to offer anything new within its storytelling. The revenge story is predictable despite the characters developing at adequate paces. What’s more, not much is known about the town and its inhabitants outside of information provided by the set design. As of result of this limitation, it’s difficult to fully immerse oneself within the story, especially with the predictability of the ending. The end result walks back most of the progress made by its leads, which may leave audiences with an overall underwhelming feeling by the film’s end.
Despite these issues, viewers may find it easy to be engaged with Donowho’s tight and simple feature script because of the interactions between Cage and Armstrong. As the father/daughter duo, they pair well together onscreen, offering moments for laughter and even times for tears. As expected, Cage handles these dynamics well, though this script doesn’t challenge him in ways that would require deeper acting skills. However, it does give newcomer Ryan Kiera Armstrong the opportunity to make her mark on Hollywood. She gives a great performance, demonstrating her ability to properly move between drama, comedy, and action in a short time span.
In short, there’s not much to expect from Donowho’s predictable and simple American western feature. Yet, The Old Way contains some good fun and offers heartwarming moments between a father and daughter as they rebuild their relationship during a vengeful mission. Thanks to great performances from Nicolas Cage and Ryan Kiera Armstrong, their dynamic is enough to carry this familiar story in a compelling way. And as expected, two hearts become one in their fight for the same desired outcome, but the journey there contains moments that can fill even the coldest of hearts with warmth.
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The Old Way released in theaters January 6. The film is 95 minutes long and rated R for violence.
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