Two of my favorite actors, and especially actors who aren’t given enough juicy roles in the industry, happen to be John Cusack and Emile Hirsch. Both are talented actors who have had brushes with Oscar but never quite gotten to that Academy Award nomination. The former has been somewhat stuck in a rut of generic action outings of late, while the latter just isn’t working enough. To see them together in something always seemed like a treat in the making. Well, this week brings them face to face in a quality little Western called Never Grow Old. The film is a nice little effort, buoyed by strong work from the both of them.
This is a Western, in all of its simple charm. Taking place in the peaceful frontier town of Garlow, home to Undertaker Patrick Tate (Emile Hirsch) and his family, we’ll see it turn into a den of debauchery with a new arrival. The bringer of death, destruction, and vice is a gang led by the violent outlaw Dutch Albert (John Cusack). In short order, they begin gunning down competition and generally anyone who bugs them. This creates plenty of new business for Patrick, who’s rather uneasy with the whole situation. Soon, he’ll be forced to take sides as Dutch gets more and more out of control. Will he stand with the murderer in the name of money or will he try to put a stop to the madness? If you’ve ever seen a Western, you know what’s going to happen. There is, however, some devious pleasure in watching it all unfold. Ivan Kavanagh writes and directs, with Piers McGrail providing the cinematography, while the trio of Aza Hand, Will Slattery, and Gast Waltzing composed the score. Supporting cast members here include Blake Berris, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Déborah François, Liz McMullen, Paul Reid, Danny Webb, and more.
John Cusack and Emile Hirsch anchor this film. This is the best work they’ve put forward in some time. Cusack is as evil as we’ve ever seen him, while Hirsch is an old fashioned Western hero. They’re playing tropes, to be sure, the bad outlaw and the good rancher, essentially, though here it’s an undertaker and carpenter, profession wise. The thing is, they play it so well, there’s layers added on. Cusack’s sad eyes allow for a glimpse at who this man perhaps once was. Hirsch has an intensity to his slow evolution towards heroism that’s truly exceptional. Both of these men are doing the sort of under the radar work here that put them on my radar years ago in the vert first place.
There’s an old fashioned feel to Never Grow Old. It’s the sort of Western that could have been made 20 years ago. It’s dark, it’s simple, it’s tense, it’s rooted in a pair of strong performances, and it’s completely no nonsense. To be fair, this limits its ambitions, but instead, we just have Kavanagh and his filmmaking focused on telling this story. With Cusack and Hirsch up to the task of playing the main parts, the movie ends up working better than I think many will expect it to. Though not the sort of revisionist Western that sets the cinematic world on fire, it’s a throwback that just ends up doing its thing and doing it well.
Starting tomorrow, audiences looking out for a good Western, and an old fashioned one at that, can rejoice when Never Grow Old hits theaters. The film is nicely done, simple and effective. What really give it its worthiness of a recommendation are the two lead performances. Cusack and especially Hirsch sink their teeth into their parts with aplomb and make the work truly memorable. Hopefully this brings them to bigger projects going forward. They certainly deserve to get their stature back a bit toward where it once was. For now, we at least have this movie, which you should definitely give a shot to…
Be sure to check out Never Grow Old, opening this weekend!