Nicolas Cage just might be the most prolific actor in Hollywood. He’s been in dramas, comedies, horror, and even a movie where he played a mute pinball player who beats up animatronics in a haunted Chuck E. Cheese ripoff. Yet somehow, 2023’s The Old Way—available to stream now on Hulu—is Cage’s first western.
The Old Way is, in many ways, an appropriate title as the movie takes a lot from previous westerns. Nicolas Cage plays Colton Briggs, a once ruthless gunslinger who gave up his murderous ways with the help of a good woman.
Nicolas Cage’s very first western film, The Old Way, is streaming on Hulu.
Briggs, much like Unforgiven‘s William Munny, gets married and hangs up his six-shooters in favor of a life of domestic mendacity. Briggs has a wife, Ruth, played by Kerry Knuppe, and a daughter named Brooke, played by Firestarter’s Ryan Kiera Armstrong along with a small general store and a farm. Life is good until it isn’t.
Unsurprisingly, Briggs’ tranquility is shattered when someone from his violent past comes back for revenge and—what else—kills Ruth, causing him to—what else—pick up his old guns and avenge her. The Old Way throws in some True Grit for good measure by having Briggs take his daughter Brooke along with him on his adventure.
The Old Way was directed by Brett Donowho from a script by Carl W. Lucas. Filming for the movie took place in Montana in late 2021. Infamous Rust armorer Hanna Gutierrez-Reed worked on the film, raising concerns from many crew members over how she handled the firearms onset. One particular incident where Gutierrez-Reed discharged a firearm without warning caused Nicolas Cage to angrily storm off the set.
“Nicolas Cage’s first Western may be a bit of a genre departure for the prolific actor, but in most respects, it’s merely a return to his Old Way of picking up roles in disappointingly subpar projects.”Rotten Tomatoes‘ critical consensus on The Old Way
Even though Gutierrez-Reed’s work on The Old Way predates her involvement in the fatal shooting on the Rust set, it seems like both sets were equally as dangerous. Given that she was alleged to be operating in the same unsafe manner while filming The Old Way that she was on the Rust set it appears to be sheer luck that kept Nicolas Cage from ending up in Alec Baldwin’s shoes.
The Old Way was acquired by Saban Films in January of 2022 and given a limited theatrical release a year later in the Netherlands, the UK, and Russia. The movie grossed only $59,729 on a reported budget of $50 million.
It’s impossible to determine whether the movie was a flop, however, given The Old Way‘s simultaneous release as a video-on-demand title. Streaming numbers are rarely reported openly, the same way box office receipts are, so there’s no way to judge a movie’s performance once it hits digital.
What is easy to judge is the Nicolas Cage movie’s critical response, which was, well, not great. The Old Way currently sits at a disappointing 32% on Rotten Tomatoes with the rather scathing critical consensus, “Nicolas Cage’s first Western may be a bit of a genre departure for the prolific actor, but in most respects, it’s merely a return to his Old Way of picking up roles in disappointingly subpar projects.”
The last part is particularly acidic as most Nicolas Cage fans remember that it wasn’t that long ago when almost every generic-looking action movie advertised on the front of their nearest Red Box featured Cage’s face wearing a morose “I’m doing this for the money,” face.
Thanks to inspired indie roles like Pig, Mandy, and yes, even Willy’s Wonderland, Nicolas Cage has been having something of a renaissance as of late. This “Golden Age of Cage” has been bolstered by some fun roles in mid-budget mainstream projects like The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and Renfield. It would be a shame if The Old Way signaled a new Nicolas Cage dark age.
The Retirement Plan
Thankfully, The Retirement Plan, coming later this month, looks like the same kind of inspired lunacy that Cage enjoys making rather than another financial obligation. The movie looks like a fun action romp in the John Wick vein, which, come to think of it, has become a genre of its own and probably deserves its own term.
If games that follow the Dark Souls formula are called Soulslike maybe movies like Nobody and The Retirement Plan can be called Wicklikes? We may have just coined a new term.
Regarding The Old Way, derivative or not, it’s still an action-packed western starring Nicolas Cage. If you’ve ever been curious about what Cowboy Cage would look like, you can catch The Old Way right now on Hulu.