We love an Outposter contribution here at Last Movie Outpost. It warms our cold, cynical, dead hearts when our Outposters want to get involved. Today EggyWeggs, a longtime visitor, drops as a review of Old Henry.
So, I’m not an avid fan of Westerns. I’m more of a sci-fi man. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like the occasional cowboy movie every now and then. So whilst reading the take on King Mel’s up-and-coming remake of The Wild Bunch by MacLeod, I thought I would itch a scratch and watch a Western.
Off I ventured to my favorite Russian website (no not that kind of Russian website you filthy-minded heathens), a Russian site that, let’s say, hosts a number of movies and TV shows that means it is “probably” breaking copyright laws (note: Last Movie Outpost cannot condone those who wish to sail in a bay of pirates).
First up on the genre link was something called Old Henry. This was only released a couple of weeks ago and I’d never heard of it, which in this day and age makes me think it’s a must-watch movie because the studios haven’t been promoting it.
This likely means it’s not a cliche, box-ticking exercise full of token characters that totally take you out of the movie as soon as you lay eyes on them. In fact, this film is just alpha white males, horses, guns, knives, and no women whatsoever. So if you like to watch your movies whilst drinking a warm mug of soy latte, this probably isn’t your thing.
Old Henry stars Tim Blake Nelson, who I think is excellent in everything, and Stephen Dorff. We know his disdain for conventional Hollywood movies. Choosing this was a no-brainer and, hell in tarnations, this was a good movie! Really good. So good, in fact, that I actually watched it again the next day once I had picked my jaw up off the floor after after watching the final act. More on that later.
The film was how I always imagined the Wild West would be, dirty, violent, and hostile with every new day being a personal accomplishment meaning that you made it another 24 hours on this earth… like living in Chicago today.
Each character is expertly portrayed. The make-up and costumes looking so authentic that one could be forgiven for thinking that everyone on set stank of cowboy body odour, bad breath and had underpants full of skid marks, such was the attention to detail.
The opening scene draws you straight it with its subtle brutality that leaves a lot to your own imagination. Dorff lays it down, from the off, that his character is a sheriff who is going to get shit done! After this, it becomes a little bit of a slow burner for a while.
Tim Drake Nelson plays a widowed, pissed-off, aging farmer called Henry who is raising a son (Gavin Lewis) who doesn’t want to be there and just wants to seek adventure.
What drew me into their world from the start were all the things for basic survival. You want to eat? Kill that hog and cut it up. You want to cook it? Go and chop some wood for the fire. You need a big shit after eating? Go outside in the dark, cold night and use a corn cob to wipe up. Watching them go about their daily chores makes you realize how utterly absurd it is when you see people today whining on Facebook that their Amazon delivery was an hour late which has caused them to have PTSD for the week.
Anyway, Old Henry moves into gear when Henry finds an unconscious, injured stranger in his field. He reluctantly takes him in to care of his injuries. However, true to the hostile times they lived in, they trust him about as far as they can throw him. So they keep him tied up while he clings to life. Henry wanders off to investigate where he came from finds a big old bag of money. Upon returning home the man is awake and so Henry questions him and for added security, he decides to use the dude’s wounds to torture him to see if he’ll deviate from his origin story!
It turns out Dorff and his posse are also looking for him and they show up at Henry’s farm claiming the man he’s looking for is an outlaw with a “history of chicanery”. And now begins the game of who is telling the truth, who can you trust, and which of these rogues should you be rooting for, and that includes Henry.
Again, the level of distrust between these people and the aggressive and yet strangely polite way they talk to each other is mesmerizing.
Now, this is where it gets tricky to review a film like this because I would advise people to see it with as little knowledge about it as possible. This is because the final act is… well…damn! I wouldn’t even advise watching the trailer below because Blake Nelson’s development of his character from simple farmer to… well I ain’t saying, is jaw-dropping stuff and the trailer gives away a little too much for my liking.
Dorff is his usual brilliant best and plays a charming, but never to be trusted, horrible piece of shit. You swerve between wanting to see him get his comeuppance and not minding if he wins the day.
Old Henry is as authentic as I’ve ever seen a western. The language they use is fun (“speechify your inner workings” – in other words, thinking out loud) and the hostility to their fellow man all rings true. The daily graft of everyday life and their quickness to turn to brutality without remorse shows through.
Many westerns glorify the era, this just makes you happy you never lived through but also, strangely, a little envious at how free life seemed back then.
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