There's a bit of old Hollywood nostalgic love for western films. Whether it's a love for a bygone era of stars such as John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or Gary Cooper or the simpler time of an adolescent country trying to find itself, one thing is clear, western films are popular.
As big studios have turned their backs on the traditional western over the last couple of decades, fans have embraced independent western films as a last-ditch effort to stem off extinction. There have been some wonderful smaller-budget westerns and there have been some not so good movies, but the western spirit has persevered.
On the home entertainment front, western films have always been big business and Gone are the Days should uphold that tradition nicely. An aging outlaw accepts his approaching mortality and sets out for one last act of redemption to make up for his law-breaking ways as a younger man. When he attempts to rescue his daughter from a brothel, his past catches up with him and an old score must be settled.
Lance Henriksen commands the screen as the old gunman Taylon having an existential crisis at the end of his life. I can't recall seeing Henriksen in a western before, but I'm sure that he has put on spurs before among his over 200 film credits. If he hasn't, then it's a lost opportunity as he proves in Gone are the Days that he was made for the genre.
Fellow character actors Tom Berenger and Danny Trejo also turn in quality performances that help to elevate a messy script and low-budget to a film that mirrors the fate of western films as a whole. There's something to be said about the intimacy of certain scenes where the principal actors are the only ones that can be found. While it helps to center the action, it also denotes a certain cost saving on extras that is a noticeable departure from their big-budget brethren.
Relative newcomers Meg Steedle and Billy Lush steal several scenes they are in opposite their more decorated co-stars. They are both brash and bring a certain hope to the film that perhaps the genre will live on beyond this generation.
It's hard not to see the allegorical connection between Taylon's journey and the fate of western films, but there is a hope too. It has been a long time since we had an original western film that approached the success of the genre's heyday, but this film gives us hope that tomorrow might indeed be a brighter day.
Gone are the Days is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.