‘The Old Way’ Ending, Explained: What Happens To Colton And Brooke Briggs?

The debate over whether Nicholas Cage is an amazing actor who can shine in any role or a terrible actor who has the worst taste in signing movies might be as old as time. He has been phenomenal in movies like “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Moonstruck,” and also done a string of movies that people prefer to forget. After dabbling in multiple genres, he’s finally forayed into the Spaghetti Western genre with a bit of Mexican standoff-like action in Brett Donowho’s “The Old Way.” In this 2023 Western/action movie, Cage plays a stone-cold killer gone straight, but the crimes of his past catch up to him and he has to go on a last ride to get vengeance. Can this movie be added to the list of movies that have defined the Nicholas Cage resurgence phase or does it need to be swept under the rug and never be mentioned again? Here’s what happens in this Spaghetti Western. 

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Spoilers Ahead


Colton Briggs And His Handlebar Moustache Versus The Outlaws

“The Old Way” opens in the middle of a typical Western setting with ‘ye olde saloons’ with swinging doors and a sheriff’s office, reminding you of any small town from Rockstar’s 2018 video game, “Red Dead Redemption 2.” A man stands at the back of a cart with a noose around his neck as an important-looking man gives a long speech about how God and His justice have finally caught up to Walter McAllister, who shall be hanged by the neck. Colton Briggs (Cage) leans against a pole with a cowboy hat and massive handlebar moustache and observes the friends of McAllister get into position. Walter’s son Jimmy stands helplessly, knowing that he might have to watch his father die before his eyes. Suddenly, firing breaks out, and the sheriff and his men get shot. Briggs, a crack-shot gunslinger, guns down several of the attackers, while Walter’s brother cuts the noose and lets him free. Briggs is on his way out when Walter picks up a gun to shoot the gunslinger because he killed Bobby. Without skipping a beat, Briggs puts a bullet squarely in Walter’s forehead and scowls at Jimmy before leaving. 

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The Crimes Of The Past 

Two decades have passed, and Briggs has hung up his pistol belt. He owns a goods shop, is married to Ruth (Kerry Knuppe), and has a daughter named Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), who might remind you of Wednesday Addams from “The Addams Family.” Briggs, now without the handlebar moustache, approaches Ruth, who’s hanging clothes out to dry in front of their beautiful cottage, and she asks him to take Brooke to school on his way to the store. While walking to her school, the awkward silence and the scattered conversation suggest that Briggs doesn’t know how to be a father to a daughter. However, the school is closed because Brooke’s teacher is ill, so she has to sit in the store until it’s time for closing. 

Meanwhile, four mean-looking men break into the Briggs residence, with James McAllister at the head. It’s clear from the start that it’s the same James whose father Briggs shot two decades back. James, however, hasn’t learned his lesson and gone straight; but is an escaped convict with US marshals on his back. James, his fellow convicts, Big Mike, Boots, and the scraggly Eustice chase after Ruth, who puts up a fight and tries escaping on Colton’s horse, but James shoots the animal and discovers a saddle with ‘Colton Briggs’ etched on the leather. Boots walks up to the wounded Ruth, who has broken her arm, and hits her across the face with the revolver’s handle and drags her into the stable. When James asks if she’s Briggs’ wife, she lists all the crimes they’ve committed against him, and Eustice immediately alerts Jimmy that he needs to abort whatever he plans to do. Ruth laughs that their actions have awoken a devil. 

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The devil in question, Briggs, is closing up shop for the day when Brooke mentions that her mother didn’t come to pick her up. The two walk back to their ranch to find US Marshal Franklin Jarrett and several other law enforcers who have started partaking of the food at the Briggs residence. Jarrett and Briggs go back years, and the Marshal is aware of how much of a menace Briggs was to society. The next scene shows Briggs digging a grave next to a body wrapped in white, as Brooke sits on a rocking chair with a frown on her face. Jarrett sits down to explain that Briggs was a nightmare that terrorized many, and it’s a miracle that he agreed to settle down. He continues that Ruth must be an amazing woman if she got Briggs to give up his way of life and lead a proper life. Brooke has a hard time believing that her father used to kill people. Briggs asks Jarrett about the identities of the men who killed his wife and where they are headed, but the Marshal says that Brooke is the reason he shouldn’t seek vengeance. She’s much more important than going after those escaped convicts, and Jarrett promises to bring Briggs’ wife’s killers to justice. That night, at the stable, Briggs sees the bloody handprint of his wife on the saddle, and he cries. On the walls, Jimmy has left a note written with blood saying that Briggs owes a lot more to the junior McAllister. He realizes that Brooke stands between him and his vengeance, so he decides to remove the obstacle. He climbs to the attic of his house, where Brooke is asleep, and points a gun at her when she wakes up. Maintaining that frown from earlier, she says that her mother would’ve been upset if she knew Briggs was pointing a gun at their daughter. When he’s unable to kill her, he hands her a pair of pants and tells her that they’re leaving.

Colton Briggs rides yet again, but this time it’s on his wife’s horse, and he has his daughter with him. Before leaving, they set their house and stable on fire as a symbolic way of burning down their identity as law-abiding citizens. On the road, Briggs teaches her the importance of resting and how to tie a belt. Meanwhile, while passing by a hillside, the Marshall and his posse are shot at by Jimmy’s gang. They manage to kill and injure quite a few, but Jarrett shoots back and they have to escape. Once outside of danger, Jimmy punches Boots because he failed to follow his orders and Jarrett is still alive for his mistake. Only three men including Jarrett have survived and they’re wounded, with only one horse for them. Briggs and Brooke are looking for an extra horse, when they see a wounded man come their way. Instead of killing him, Brooke suggests that they try distracting him, but she doesn’t know how to cry. So, she stands there and makes weird noises that they think may pass off as crying, and when Mark, a member of Jarett’s posse, approaches her, he gets ambushed by Briggs. The father-daughter duo lead Mark to where the posse was resting and threaten to torture them if Jarrett doesn’t give him the identity of the killers. While Jarrett hesitates, Briggs heats up a knife and brings it close to Mark’s wound, and the Marshal has to blurt out the name and the location. Briggs proceeds to do field surgery on Mark’s hand and cauterizes the wound before taking the only horse the posse had. He makes two promises—to leave the horse tied outside the town for Jarrett, and to come back to kill him if Briggs finds out that the Marshal lied. Jimmy and his gang arrive at a shack and dig up a big box full of Mexican money. And he threatens the crew to stay with him, or else they’ll be lost. They then make their way to Santa Rosa, Mexico, and James begins ordering the crew around. Eustice gets first guard duty at the only entry to the town, as the others go to a saloon to relax. The power goes to Jimmy’s head, and he breaks Eustice’s finger for falling asleep on guard duty. 

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That night, the father and daughter have a heart-to-heart conversation. Briggs says that as a child, he didn’t laugh or cry and was immune to fear. He grew up without knowing what fear felt like, until he met Ruth, and his first emotion was fear that she wouldn’t be with him. While talking about how he was scared to lose her, the cold-hearted killer starts sobbing. Brooke requests that Briggs teach her how to shoot the next morning. She learns how to wield the pistol and even gets a few bullseyes. Briggs notices there’s only one way into town, so he sends Brooke into town to casually find out if any new riders have arrived recently. She enters the town and heads to the general goods shop, but is apprehended by the gang outside because they had seen her going to school with her father on the day of the events, and the saddle bears her father Colton Briggs’ name. They hire a few Mexican gunslingers and keep watch everywhere in town, while Jimmy sits inside the saloon with Brooke. 


The Time For Payback 

It’s here that James McAllister explains how he knows Brooke’s father. He maintained that Brooke and he are related, not through blood, but by his own twisted design. He says that after Briggs stared into the child Jimmy’s eyes after shooting Walter dead, Jimmy had a spiritual awakening, and every waking moment of his life since then he has spent in hopes of vengeance. He swears that after he kills Briggs later that day, James will become Brooke’s new father figure. While Brooke remarks that James is a lunatic, he fills his saddle bag with some cash from the big box. Meanwhile, seeing how Brooke hasn’t returned, Briggs rides into town and quickly clears the playing field. However, while shooting Boots, he gets nicked in the arm by Eustice. What follows is the classic standoff in Mexican style, at the heart of the country. Jimmy calls Briggs out and points a revolver at him, while Eustice points a rifle at Brooke’s head. Briggs has to choose: save his daughter and get shot or kill James and get his daughter’s head blown off. In the end, the man who thought of shooting his daughter just two days prior kills the man with a gun at his head and gets shot in return. As James revels in the ecstasy that he has shot Briggs and his revenge is complete, Brooke shoots him dead. While bleeding out, Briggs hands her his pocket watch that he’d always stare at (because it had a picture of Ruth on one side) and tells her that her mother will guide her. 

Later, Marshall Jarrett rides by and finds the bodies strewn everywhere, as well as the big box of money. He strikes a deal with Brooke that he’ll ensure that Briggs gets a hero’s burial, she can go manage his store, and he’ll forget the incident of being held up by her father and her. He does ask her to forget about the box full of cash, though. The two agree, and she asks a waitress to bring the saddle bag that Jimmy had loaded with cash to her so that she can be on her way. 


Final Words

Nicholas Cage manages to pull off a Spaghetti western where the unlikely bonding with his daughter becomes the highlight of the movie. The daughter, who had never known what crying was, weeps as her father bleeds out. She also manages to hoodwink the US Marshal of some of the money from the box by carrying away the saddlebags that Jimmy had loaded with cash. The girl who couldn’t connect with her parents and felt so out of place all her life, had quickly learned the ways to fit into the world and be accepted because her father taught her to. Brooke, a lady in a man’s world, learns how to shoot a gun, run a store, and even exhibit emotions—something she never thought she could.

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Coming back to the protagonist, Cage does a decent job of playing a battle-hardened gunslinger who has seen his fair share of standoffs and walked away from several of them, alive. Although he’s passionate while crying over the dead wife he loved, he fails to present himself as the stone-cold killer that he’s touted as. Be it the obvious signs of aging that have lined his face, or the way he chews his lines, he cannot evoke the feeling of a killer, like he did in “Mandy.” Even though “The Old Way” might not be up there with the rest of his hits, it passes for a watch if you’re looking for the weird combination of Spaghetti westerns and Nicholas Cage. 


Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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