OLD HENRY -- A Traditional Western with a Stellar Performance by Tim Blake Nelson
Review by Dan Skip Allen
To say that the Western genre is full of classics would be an understatement. High Noon, Once Upon a Time in the West, and various Clint Eastwood films including Unforgiven are all among some of the best films ever made. That said, Westerns have been a little hit and miss in the last two decades. Old Henry is a hit by anybody's standards.
Tim Blake Nelson plays the lead character. He's a farmer in the midwest with a teenage son who, like most teenagers, thinks he knows everything. While out riding on his land, he finds an injured man lying in a creek bed and a bag of cash. The father and son take the man back to their house to help nurse him back to health. They eventually get him healthy and ask him about who he is. The thing is he's not that trustworthy because men come looking for him.
Nelson has had a very fascinating career. He's actually been in a few Westerns before this one. Mostly he plays villains though. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the film that was his breakout role. He was hilarious in that Coen Brothers film. Recently he was in Just Mercy and he did great in a small role in that film. He has even been in a couple of comic book movies. Maybe his character will come back from The Incredible Hulk. Henry, though, is the best character he ever played.
Old Henry has that Lone Wolf and Cub feeling to it. It reminds me of a few Clint Eastwood films as well as the Christian Bale/Russell Crowe version of 3:10 to Yuma. This old grizzled man mentors a young man. We've seen this before in films. The thing is it's so spot on once again. Nelson is perfect in this role. He even has some secrets that come out by the end of the film. Secrets that even I didn't see coming. I usually snuff out movie secrets because I see so many movies.
With all heroes must also come a villain. And Stephen Dorff plays that baddie in this film. He's a bit subdued but violent when he needs to be. We've seen better villains in westerns in the past. This film isn't about the bad guys, though. It's about Henry and his relationship with his son and the man they saved. The bad guys are a necessary evil of the film. They are there for the violence to take its shape for lack of a better word.
Old Henry treads similar ground to a lot of Westerns in the past. The thing that sets this film apart from the others is the performance by Tim Blake Nelson. He gave the performance of his career in the role. The setting and backdrop were pretty cool as well. The director did a very good job fleshing out the characters and their secrets. That helped keep the story flowing nicely even though it was a pretty short film. It flew by in a good way.
Old Henry hits theaters and VOD on October 1.
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