Director: Potsy Ponciroli
Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Scott Haze, Gavin Lewis, Trace Adkins, Stephen Dorff
Run Time: 99 mins
Old Henry is a thrilling Western with a particularly satisfying final act with an inspired performance from Tim Blake Nelson. Nelson plays the titular character, a widower whose quite clearly experienced a violent past. He lives with his son, Wyatt (Gavin Lewis) on a farm in Oklahoma, who he is is very protective of. One day, when roaming the Oklahoma landscape, he comes across a wounded man, Curry (Scott Haze) carrying a satchel of cash. He takes him back to his house, methodically erases any trace of his whereabouts, and nurses him back to health, while keeping him handcuffed. Soon enough, a trio led by Ketchum (Stephen Dorff) arrive on the property to see if Henry has seen Curry, who plays ignorance. Being a Western, you’d be wise to assume Ketchum doesn’t just head off on his way.
Directed by Potsy Ponciroli in what is his second feature-length film after the little known Super Zeroes in 2012, Old Henry keeps its cards close to its chest in its first act. But when it gets going, it’s a deeply satisfying romp with an elegiac quality. While it may seem like a fairly typical (but well done) Western, its narrative is elevated by a character revelation in the final act. There are some thrilling action sequences, particularly a chase within some reeds and a customary final shoot-out. The film is beautifully shot by director of photography, John Matysiak.
Tim Blake Nelson is excellent as the world-weary, tired titular pig farmer. He wants to be left in peace and look after his son, who he is trying to raise in a different way to his own upbringing. It’s rare to see Nelson fully carry a film, but he does so with gusto. Nelson is no stranger to the Western after featuring in The Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and being its brightest spot. Nelson was apparently apprehensive to commit to this film, not wanting it to be similar to Buster Scruggs, but he needn’t have worried. The other performances are also solid, with Stephen Dorff another highlight as the sadistic villain.
Old Henry is a thrilling, old-fashioned Western with a couple of tricks up its sleeve to shake the genre’s formula.