The Old Way Movie Review: Nicolas Cage Western is Generic and Lazy

The Old Way is Directed by Brett Donowho and Stars Nicolas Cage and Ryan Kiera Armstrong

Review: The Old Way rarely goes above genre conventions and expectations. As many of Nicolas Cage’s recent movies go, it seems The Old Way was made only to satisfy his request to play the role of a weathered cowboy. A real dud.

The Old Way movie Nicolas Cage
The Old Way

It’s been a year of new possibilities for Nicolas Cage as he’s finally gotten opportunities in roles he’s previously never attempted. After years of rumors spreading that he’d be donning the cape as Dracula, he finally rose to the occasion in Renfield a few months ago – even if that movie didn’t really rise to the occasion itself as it never fully worked beyond the premise of starring Nicolas Cage. Now, he’s turning his sights towards the Western genre in The Old Way and hoping to pull off the role of a weathered, once infamous cowboy looking to exact revenge on those that have wronged him.

At this point, I don’t go into Nicolas Cage movies expecting much beyond hoping that Cage at least offers something fun and engaging. After all, he hasn’t had the best stretch of movies lately with The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and Willy’s Wonderland being largely forgettable and mediocre at best (Pig broke up the string of weak releases, although that seems more like an outlier rather than the regular quality level at this point). He sits in a weird sphere of still being able to get movies funded just by name recognition and branding – a skill that newer leading actors and actresses are struggling to gain in recent memory – but so few of them have lasting power beyond a few weeks or months.

Which is why I went in hoping that The Old Way would occasionally offer some new ideas or interest points for Cage, even if I felt that that was a longshot. After all, this movie had an unremarkable and rather quick run in theaters early this year before dropping on Hulu with a thud only a couple months later, a turnaround that even by modern standards feels incredibly short.

The movie loosely follows a narrative of Cage’s Colton Briggs seeking revenge on a character that’s killed has wife – while that character is also seeking revenge on Briggs for killing his father years before the core events of The Old Way (convoluted – I know, but also quite dumb). Briggs and his daughter Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) traverse the terrain and meet a handful of unimportant and unimaginative characters along the way.

It’s ironic that this movie hit Hulu relatively in line with the current writer’s strike beginning because – and I know this isn’t true (or at least I sure hope not) – this feels like it was written by an A.I. platform. It’s not difficult to imagine much of The Old Way being a product of a system in charge of melting together a dozen different, and much better, Westerns from years past. It incorporates all of the iconography and sets and shots you’d expect from a film in this genre, but it rarely builds upon them in any meaningful way.

I get that it might be trying to navigate a difficult terrain of modern Westerns that are much grittier, darker, and trying to comment on the current state of the genre at large, but The Old Way sways way too far the other way. It’s so campy and unsure of itself that it’s hard to ever take the movie seriously. Even Nicolas Cage didn’t seem up to the task with this one, as if he’s just there to say he’s done a Western and collect his paycheck.

Reviews for Films like The Old Way (2023)

And it’s not an ideal proposition to make a Western opposite of the characteristics that I mentioned previously considering the fact that those Westerns make up some of the best of the genre this century – and occasionally some of the best movies period. Perhaps the best pitch isn’t to say that you want to make a movie opposite of No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and The Power of the Dog. Hell, even The Harder They Fall (which isn’t perfect and still has issues of its own) contains more lively characters and action that build towards a satisfying conclusion.

The Old Way feels more like its running through the motions and attempting to hit on every plot beat you’d expect from a film like this; the revelation of a concealed past, groveling with masculinity in a rather stale and inauthentic way, a shootout at the end that has to try to evolve and differentiate from the classic perception of one. All these points are here, but none of them are slightly interesting or feel like they’re contributing to this new sense of the Western genre.

It’s clear by the time the credits role that The Old Way just serves as a chance for Nicolas Cage to bolster his own IMDb page, but even he seems like he’s skating by. Between this and Renfield, his 2023 slate hasn’t been great and focusing on just one of these projects could’ve resulted in one decent movie, maybe. Instead, we got a lackluster turn at him playing a weathered cowboy and another at him playing Dracula. Which one is worse? I’m not sure, because they’re not far apart in quality and neither are movies that I plan on returning to in the future.


Genre: Western

Where to stream The Old Way: Hulu, VOD

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The Old Way Movie Cast and Credits

The Old Way Movie Cast and Crew

Film Cast

Nicolas Cage as Colton Briggs

Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Brooke Briggs

Noah Le Gros as James McCallister

Clint Howard as Eustice

Shiloh Fernandez as Boots

Film Crew

Director: Brett Donowho

Writer: Carl W. Lucas

Cinematography: Sion Michel

Editor: Frederick Wardell

Composer: Andrew Morgan Smith

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