Combustible Celluloid Review - The Old Way (2023), Carl W. Lucas, Brett Donowho, Nicolas Cage, Clint Howard, Abraham Benrubi, Ryan Kiera Amrstrong, Noah Le Gros, Nick Searcy, Shiloh Fernandez, Kerry Knuppe
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With: Nicolas Cage, Clint Howard, Abraham Benrubi, Ryan Kiera Amrstrong, Noah Le Gros, Nick Searcy, Shiloh Fernandez, Kerry Knuppe
Written by: Carl W. Lucas
Directed by: Brett Donowho
MPAA Rating: R for violence
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/06/2023
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The Old Way (2023)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Colton Lava

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This simple Western ultimately doesn't have terribly much to say but Nicolas Cage's hard-as-an-anvil performance, his chemistry with young Ryan Kiera Armstrong, and some playful dialogue, make it worth a gander.

Young Colton Briggs (Cage) is a stone-cold killer who shoots several men without even blinking. Twenty years later, as the Old West fades away into a New Republic, he has reformed. He is happily married, to Ruth (Kerry Knuppe) and has a whip-smart 12 year-old daughter, Brooke (Armstrong).

Unfortunately, dangerous criminal James McCallister (Noah Le Gros) has just broken out of prison and has a longstanding vendetta against Briggs. He assembles a crew that includes Big Mike (Abraham Benrubi), Boots (Shiloh Fernandez), and Eustice (Clint Howard), and launches a terrible plan. Despite the warnings of Marshal Jarret (Nick Searcy), Briggs takes Brooke on a mission of revenge. But are they walking into a trap?

The Old Way starts very well, with director Brett Donowho giving writer Carl W. Lucas's words just the right pacing, especially in the terse way that Briggs and Brooke speak to each other, he with gruff, stoic commands, and she with cold logic (she's like a Wild West Wednesday Addams). A scene in which she re-arranges the jelly beans in Briggs's general store has the feel of a strong setup, the promise of something interesting to come.

The villains are a colorful bunch as well, with the silver-tongued McCallister as the leader, lumbering Big Mike, loose-cannon Boots, and cranky old-timer Eustice (played by the cult actor Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard). The dialogue promises a real treat when the chase is over and the showdown begins — "you boys have woke up the devil," the villains are warned — but unfortunately, The Old Way just kind of… ends.

It half-heartedly shrugs at ideas of revenge being ill-fated and of certain qualities passed on from generation to generation, but it doesn't really do anything with these. Nevertheless, it's maybe two-thirds of a good horse opera, and a decent time-passer.

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