REVIEW: Old Henry (2021): Beware who you trust in The Old West
A simple font choice here but not everything is as it seems.
Old Henry is a modern western. I wonder if this is becoming a trend? Spoiler, I don't mind it at all as I've been consuming them at a fair pace recently.
Potsy Ponciroli both writes and directs this tale. A name I'm not familiar with and was apparently involved with the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019) film. This is leagues away from that even though those two knuckleheads will always have a spot in my heart.
The Old West is humbling. You better know how to conduct yourself or you might be on the run like this fellow.
This western outing stars Tim Blake Nelson, a face I know but the name often eludes me. I know him well as he's usually playing supporting character roles with a certain meek aura about him. This isn't the case here.
We also meet up with Stephen Dorff, an actor that is often underrated in my opinion. He's popped up over the years here and there but I must say it's been awhile seen I've seen him in something that has caught my eye.
Henry knows when trouble appears at his doorstep. Pistol in hand just in case.
Henry (Tim Blake Nelson) is a farmer. Working the land with his son Wyatt (Gavin Lewis) and his brother-in-law Al (Trace Adkins). They seem to be a hard working troupe. Henry's wife has passed some 10 years ago and he's there day in and day out trying to survive on his plot of land.
His son Wyatt, a teenager, is bored. A farmer he is not and wishes to see bigger things in life. There is a constant tit and tat between them. Once he is able to fend for himself he will be gone as he mentions in a fit of anger.
One day a lone horse appears on the horizon without a rider. Son and father go to investigate and soon discover blood on the saddle. Immediately, Henry's son Wyatt begins to speculate on the outcome.
Bandits? Robbers? Natives?
Henry knows something is wrong here and sends his son back to the ranch. He will investigate himself. He saddles up his own horse and begins to follow the trail of this lone horse. Soon enough he comes upon a body face down in the muck. Cautiously, he approaches and announces his arrival.
You can never be too careful in these situations. Are you alive or playing possum?
Nothing. No movement. He presses on the body with his foot and still no response. Quickly, he flips the body over and puts his ear to the strangers mouth. He is breathing. Soon enough he notices he's been shot in the shoulder.
Quickly, Henry grabs some mud and grass to stop the bleeding. He further presses a rag on his wound to help stop the blood flow. While thinking of what do next he notices a satchel in the brush and scoffs.
He throws the stranger over his horse, eventually grabs the satchel and finds some nearby brush. He proceeds to start sweeping the area as he walks backwards towards his horse carrying this stranger. Henry is not a simple farmer and there's much more to this story than it appears.
The posse arrives asking questions.
The story starts to expand more and more fully over time. We soon meet Ketchum (Stephen Dorff), wearing a badge and is a lawman. A gregarious gabber if I've ever seen one. Concise speech isn't his forte and he might get paid by the word. Something is strange about him and his posse of two men, one a tracker and the other a heavy.
They're looking for a man and let it be known there will be consequences for anyone that harbors him. Both Ketchum and Henry cross paths once this posse arrives at his ranch. A verbal discourse ensues where Ketchum is fishing for information from Henry. They both know who each other really are but don't let on at this point.
The stage has been set. Nobody is what they seem here. There are small tells everyone exudes even when they're trying to bury them. From here on out we're trying to determine who is who and what they want.
Violence is always a last resort for him. There are times when words must be set aside and action is demanded.
This is a great study in the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. The bonds between groups are often strong and become stressed to the breaking point. The relationship between son and father come to the forefront. Wyatt has always viewed his father in a rather low light until he starts to discover what type of man he is.
He is a reformed man and his son has only ever seen this side. Wyatt believes his father is a good man but a boring one and it's clearly present in how he interacts with his father. At points, his uncle further reiterates that his father is a decent hard-working man doing what he can in this world while protecting and attempting to raise his son to the best of his abilities. Youth and hubris is hard to shake at Wyatt's age as it is with most at this time. He knows this but wants more. By the end of this tale he discovers that his father is anything but meek and has lived his life to the fullest.
There are some great moments of suspense and action in this film that switch up the pacing nicely. We know Henry is not as he seems. A large backstory is clearly evident that the audience will soon discover near the end of the film.
Who's that in the tall grass? Time to investigate.
A scene where Henry is in the tall grass observing this posse comes to mind. He's laying flat attempting to remain quiet when a noise is unintentionally made that alerts them. Slowly the troupe make their way through inch by inch. The suspense is ratcheted up to 11. A shotgun blast is let loose and the camera pans down to the bent grass where Henry once laid. A quick cut to Henry riding off like hell back to the ranch without them seeing. Great stuff!
Nothing here. Henry escaped just in time. The blast from the scattergun would have finished him off if he didn't escape.
As with most westerns we have a nice palette of Earth color tones. Browns and golds come to the forefront in most shots. We feel immersed as if we are all there during this exact period in history. Hard and unforgiving in reality and it's not glamorized here. People are struggling and there are bad people out there that want what little you have.
This is a micro budget film and was apparently made for 1.5 million. This is the definition of a low budget but it does not look it. There are ways to stretch your dollar and the director has found a way to do it. Filmed in Watertown, Tennessee they were able to capture the atmosphere of the west. Kudos to them I would have never guessed.
The story ended up drawing me in. I was invested in Henry, his son Wyatt and the uncle. There's not much else to say here. A good story, good acting and something different. My only great concern is that many will never get the chance to see this film due to advertising. Word of mouth and reviews are where this one will shine. I already see many rave reviews on this film and I'd like to add my own take on that.
Rainbows and happy endings aren't often seen by many living during these times. Life is hard especially for those that attempt to do harm.
Well worth a watch and a good time for me. The tale of the western appears to be alive and thriving.
Thanks for the read 🙂
All media captured by myself from the original source.