The screenplay of Carl W. Lucas is an amalgamation of fragments taken from other Westerns (“True Grit” is perhaps the most obvious antecedent, especially the very-loquacious-by-half dialogue) with elements from the likes of “River of No Return” and “Unforgivable“). There are also moments that will remind Cage fans of his previous work – the previous attempt to care for Brooke reminds one of the more famous scenes from “Kick Ass,” and the opening plot will strike some as similar to the wonderful “Pig.” However, “The Old Road” never manages to make these elements into a compelling narrative. Some of the plots are contrived—like McCallister’s determination to pull off his wildly concocted and labor-intensive revenge plan instead of just shooting him when he has the chance, as crusty cohort Eustice advises him to do (Clint Howard)—becomes silly after a while. (Suffice it to say, if you’re in an Old West gang and the wisest and worst advice from Clint Howard’s character, you might want to try applying to another gang.) There is a potential which is an interesting element to be in emotional characteristics. owned by Colton and Brooke, but the movie never developed it to any significant degree.
“The Old Way” is also hampered by what was likely its key selling point, Cage’s performance. His work isn’t necessarily bad (although there are a few moments where he seems to be doing a dry run for his upcoming turn as Dracula, of all things), but his main persona is very contemporary. which inevitably made him feel bad. instead of what is meant to be a traditional take on the West. (Since “Butcher’s Crossing” is more of a commentary on the genre than an example, his presence there is less surprising.) As a bad guy, his weirdness might be more appropriate (in indeed, Le Gros sometimes seems to be actively channeling Cage of old as a twisted villain). However, as a hero—even one with as many quirks as his character has—he’s never been more convincing.
Perhaps if more Westerns were made these days, “The Old Way” – which is more half-wrong than a total disaster – would be a little more palatable or at least easier to forgive. However, at a time when interest in Western theater appears to be at an all-time low and even a film as strong and powerful as Walter Hillsmart “Dead for a Dollar” hardly inspires any notice, even for a seemingly minor misfire like this, with a screenplay that bounces between whimsy and insanity, director Brett’s lackluster execution Donowho, and a somewhat miscast star, that comes off bigger than it could be. The West may not be completely dead, but “The Old Way” isn’t exactly doing it any favors.
Now playing in theaters and available on demand and on digital platforms on January 13.