An Irish undertaker profits when outlaws take over a peaceful American frontier town, but his family comes under threat as the death toll rises.
The Western, as a cinematic genre, keeps coming back from the dead. With Kevin Costner busy hunting down Bonnie and Clyde in John Lee Hancock’s The Highway Men, it was up to the Coen brothers’ throwback compilation The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and, to a certain degree, Jacques Audiard’s oddball The Sister Brothers to keep the Western alive. Now indie filmmaker Ivan Kavanagh steps in with the audacious but sadly underwhelming Never Grow Old. The film may not resuscitate the genre, but does it justice, flaws and all.
Don’t expect green pastures and sunlit duels though. Kavanagh drags us deep into the Western’s underbelly; his story set in a grimy, muddy little town of Garlow. To liven it up a bit, Reverend Pike (Danny Webb) managed to get rid of all the “gambling, alcohol and whores,” waxing poetic at his church about making America “paradise here on Earth.” Irish immigrant Patrick (Emile Hirsch) dreams of leaving this dump to California, but his French wife Audrey (Déborah François) resolutely promises that “it’ll pick up.”
“Irish immigrant Patrick dreams of leaving this dump to California, but his French wife Audrey resolutely promises that ‘it’ll pick up.'”
A menacing figure by the name of Dutch Albert (John Cusack) rides into town one night, like the Grim Reaper, along with his posse: tongue-less, rapey side-kick Dumb-Dumb (Sam Louwyck) and Italian weirdo Sicily (Camille Pistone). Before Patrick knows it, he’s neck-deep with the evil trio, as they take over Garlow, bringing back all the “gambling, whores and alcohol” – and ultra-violence along with them. Patrick’s “honest, worker’s hands” get stained with blood, and soon enough it’s Audrey begging her husband to leave.