Emile Hirsch and John Cusack star in this upcoming Western directed by Irish filmaker Ivan Kavanagh. Never Grow Old tells the story of Irish carpenter and undertaker Patrick Tate (Hirsch) and his family as they attempt to find a life for themselves in America. They live in a small American frontier town but dream of going to California. The town is ruled over by a Preacher who has banned alcohol and prostitutes while Hirsch and his wife were forced to convert to their religion. However, it is a initially a safe place for the Tate family despite some financial concerns. That all changed when three outlaws, led by Dutch Albert (John Cusack) enter the town and reek havoc. The outlaws’ actions have a direct impact on Tate, causing a rift between himself and his wife (Deborah Francois). We see Tate’s moral consciousness being challenged and he must make a choice between justice and wealth.
Upon seeing this poster, one might question the casting choices. For one thing, Emile Hircsh playing an Irish immigrant seems like quite an odd choice given past experience of non Irish actors playing Irish characters while it’s initially quite difficult to picture John Cusack as a Western villain. While, Hirsch’s accent, like pretty much every American actors attempt at an Irish accent is substandard, the Into The Wild star is excellent in the leading role and we forgive him for his unrecognizable twang. In fairness to Hirsch, his ‘Belfast’ accent isn’t quite as horrendous as Tom Cruise’ effort in Far and Away or Gerard Butler’s in PS I love you so cuddos for that.Cusack is also a menacing and sinister villain and his presence give the film an eerie feel. The backup cast is competent too and Saoirse Ronan’s Dad Ronan appears briefly as Bill Crabtree.
Never Grow Old is a gritty western with all the tension and violence that you expect and want from the genre but also a layer of depth that give it a deeper sense of meaning. The imagery draws you in straight away with the first scene showing Tate entering a church building with a shotgun. Kavanagh just about gives you enough context so as not to completely isolate you but the mystery and the sense of unknown keeps you on the edge of your seat. There is plenty of twists and turns that both frighten and excite you and while often these cold, gloomy types of films can freeze you out as an audience member, there is enough to like about Tate and the other characters to keep you interested. The dialogue is probably not the films strongest aspect but it’s not awful either and the acting and plot is good enough to keep the film running nicely.
Visually, the film is stunningly beautiful and Kavanagh and co really capture the feel and the sense of loneliness of the time. We feel the hardship experienced by many families of the 1850s and the levels people will go to provide for their families. Gast Waltzing, Aza Hand and Will Slattery provide a fitting score and this adds to the atmosphere and sense of foreboding. This film could have been a run of the mill modern Western with decent actions sequences but it has far more soul than one might expect without being unnecessarily complicated.
In Tate vs Albert, we have a good dynamic and classic a clash between the moral family man and the lawless psychopath intent on destruction. While, we essentially have a good vs evil story, we do see the being lines blured between them and there far more depth to the characters. Does Tate tolerate Albert’s murders and violence in order to provide for his family? That dilemma occupies much of the film’s plot and we see it take a tole on himself and his relationship with his wife. As the body count rises the family become more fractured and the village becomes drenched in blood.
Don’t go into this film expecting Old Style duels but also don’t expect a terribly unredeeming, badly made action film that I admittedly did. This is a visually stunning, well made film with a great story driving it. Of course, the film is not without it’s issues, a pretty lackluster dialogue being one of them, but it’s well worth seeing and will stay in your mind for some time.