John Cusack and Emile Hirsch violently clash as outlaw and undertaker in the remarkably rock solid Western, “Never Grow Old” (2019). This movie is directed by Ivan Kavanagh. Although set in the United States, “Never Grow Old” is an Irish-Luxembourg-Belgian-French co-production and is distributed by Saban Films.
“Never Grow Old” takes place in the small, non-descript town of Garlow, on the trail to California in 1849. Garlow is a fairly religious community, a place where the activism of Preacher Pike (Danny Webb) and his temperance society has banned gambling, alcohol and prostitution. Patrick Tate (Emile Hirsch) is an Irish immigrant who lives in Garlow with his pregnant wife, Audrey (Deborah Francois) and their two small kids. Patrick is the head carpenter and local undertaker for the small community. His quiet and placid existence is broken when Dutch Albert (John Cusack) arrives in town. Dutch buys the local hotel for $1000 dollars, re-opens the bar and brings back all the usual vices. He also renames the hotel, “Dutch Albert’s Place”.
With gambling, drinking and prostitution back on the hotel menu, less town folk are attending church. There are also a lot more dead bodies for the undertaker, making Patrick a lot richer. Patrick’s association with Dutch Albert angers his wife who is deeply invested in being accepted in town and at her Church. When one of Dutch’s partners, Dumb Dumb (Sam Louwyck), becomes a little too infatuated with Audrey, Patrick finally wakes up and realizes he must end Dutch Albert’s reign as the de facto king of the town.
“Never Grow Old” has exceedingly good cinematography. There is excellent use of natural lighting throughout, especially in a scene where a group of men on horseback ride silently through the woods, lit only by their torches. Cinematographer Piers McGrail has crafted a moody and evocative looking picture. The cinematography is of a much higher quality than the usual video on demand release.
John Cusack’s appearance in “Never Grow Old” is more of a bedraggled former glam rocker than outlaw. Dutch Albert is also a far cry from the usual romantic comedy roles he used to inhabit in the 1990s. Nonetheless, Cusack makes a fairly convincing and menacing villain. Emile Hirsch is also credible as the mild-mannered undertaker. Unfortunately, Danny Webb’s out of place accent and hammy acting as Preacher Pike is both grating and an impediment to fully enjoying the movie.
“Never Grow Old” while sluggish in the middle portion, builds to a violent and fiery conclusion. Unquestionably recommended for digital rental or purchase for those who like violent Westerns or slow burning action films.