The Reel Review
Old Henry is a widowed farmer living with his teenage son in a remote stretch of the Oklahoma territory in 1906. After he reluctantly provides refuge for a wounded man with a satchel full of cash, a three-man posse claiming to be lawmen comes for the money. Henry must decide whom to trust, quickly revealing that there is a lot more to him than meets the eye, in this Western/thriller.
The simple story from writer/director Potsy Ponciroli is an efficient, taut thriller. Tim Blake Nelson gives a career best performance, transforming from farmer to lightning-quick sharpshooter with impressive subtlety. The supporting cast includes an excellent Gavin Lewis (Little Fires Everywhere) as his frustrated son wanting a better life, Scott Haze (Antlers, Child of God) as the wounded man, a convincing Stephen Dorff as the villain and country singer Trace Adkins as Henry’s brother-in-law and neighbor.
The big twist about Henry’s past is very obvious to those with a passing knowledge of Wild West history, and the wounded man’s flashbacks to when he’d encountered Henry years ago lack the finesse of the rest of the well-crafted film. But even so, Ponciroli has created a riveting, realistic tale of a protective father trying to make up for a checkered past that will delight fans of good old fashioned Westerns.
• Old Henry is Tim Blake Nelson’s fifth western, after Holes, Homesman, the TV miniseries Klondike and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
• Although set in Oklahoma, Old Henry was filmed in Watertown, Tennessee, about 45 minutes northeast of Nashville.
• Nelson says five months of filming The Ballad of Buster Scruggs taught him how to do pistol tricks that he would use in Old Henry.