Old Henry is an action western about a widowed farmer and his son who warily take in a mysterious, injured man with a satchel of cash. When a posse of men claiming to be the law come for the money, the farmer must decide who to trust. Defending a siege of his homestead, the farmer reveals a talent for gun-slinging that surprises everyone, calling his true identity into question.
Going into the movie theater to watch 'Old Henry', I was aware of two things: it’s a Western and Richard Speight, Jr. is in it. To ensure that other movie goers share that same luxury, I will keep my review on the vague side and keep as many spoilers out as possible while still giving you the general flavor of the plot.
Being that 'Old Henry' is a Western, there are key elements that are usually present to denote that you are watching a Western, as opposed to say a drama in which the characters are simply wearing Stetsons and speaking with a drawl, and this movie definitely delivers. There is the struggle of good versus evil, but the who’s who is kept quite ambiguous as to keep the audience guessing as to whom they should be rooting for, and I was all for it! Most Western films also involve a train, stage coach or bank robbery, and 'Old Henry' delivers on this key note as well; though who actually robbed the bank is up for speculation making it a major plot point. This brings us to the outlaws and the sheriffs who bring them to justice before riding off into the sunset.
While our central character, widower Henry McCarty, is just a simple farmer living on a remote homestead with his young son Wyatt, his past is shrouded in mystery; and when a rider-less horse appears, covered in blood, he finds himself embroiled in the quintessential western skirmish akin to the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. One of the things I liked most about 'Old Henry' is the relationship between Henry and his son Wyatt, who is a boy on the brink of becoming a man. While Wyatt is shown to be stubborn, defiant, and downright sassy, we are watching his coming of age story unfold in the midst of unforeseen circumstances that propel him headlong into the adulthood he thought he was so desperately craving when his Pa brings the missing rider, who is shot and unconscious, back their isolated little farm. This movie is heavily laden with foreshadowing, but it’s not always super obvious which I really enjoyed.
So if Henry (portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson), his son Wyatt (portrayed by Gavin Lewis), and his brother-in-law Al (portrayed by Trace Atkins), who we meet briefly at the beginning of the film, are all just farm folk, where are the Outlaws and the Sheriffs with their deputized posse that I mentioned earlier? Well, 'Old Henry' opens with a man hunt in which a trio of riders on horseback, sporting celestial badges on their lapels, are seen tracking down what can only be assumed to be an outlaw. These men are the sheriff Ketchum (portrayed by Stephen Dorff), and his two deputies Stilwell and Dugan (portrayed by Max Arciniega and Richard Speight, Jr. respectively). As the plot unfolds we discover that this small but deadly threesome are hot on the trail of an alleged bank robber named Curry (portrayed by Scott Haze.)
There are some great comedic moments in 'Old Henry', my favorite being when Curry describes Dugan as “the ugly one with a beard”, because Richard Speight, Jr. is far from ugly, quite the contrary in his black cowboy hat astride his horse . . . where were we? Oh yes, signatures of a good Western film. I loved that writer/director Potsy Ponciroll dug in his thesaurus for great bygone era words like “chicanery” to really enhance the proper dialect of the time. He made this logophile proud! This brings us to the last, but one of the greatest, elements of the Western film, which is the shoot-out. 'Old Henry' gives us multiple nail biters, with bullets flying and twists and turns that you won’t see coming! There are some really great edge-of-your-seat moments, but so as to not spoil anything, I am going to refrain from divulging, other than to say this is “One hell of a good movie!” If you get the chance, see it on the big screen as it was intended, like I did, and be prepared for some really great surprises that you won’t see coming!
Review by Erika Wolfe
Richard first announced he’d been cast in the movie at his Creation Entertainment Virtual Fan Event panel in November 2020, explaining it was the reason for his bountiful beard.
The movie shot in Lebanon, Tennessee. While he was in TN, Rich and Emma Fitzpatrick met up in her backyard in Nashville to record a socially distanced version of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ for Jason Manns’ StageIt Christmas with Friends special.
Tim Blake Nelson (Henry) is close friends with Steve Earle, whose ‘Copperhead Road’ is one of the covers slated for ‘Dick Jr’ & The Volunteers sophomore album. Nelson directed Earle’s ‘Invisible’ music promo and Earle appeared in Nelson’s comedy ‘Leaves of Grass’.
Like Richard, Tim Blake Nelson is father to three boys.
Stephen Dorff (Ketchum) portrayed original Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe in the 1994 film 'Backbeat'. Rich recommended the stellar soundtrack in the March 17th edition of 'Kings of Con'. It features rock and roll standards performed by a supergroup that includes Dave Grohl, Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner and Rich's favourite bass-player, Mike Mills of REM.
Rich previously worked with director Potsy Ponciroli on an episode of Billy Ray Cyrus comedy ‘Still the King’, guesting as an angry record company exec.
Rich sports a scuffed up nose in the movie, as a result of a stunt that went wrong on his first day of shooting.
Tim Blake Nelson starred as a member of bluegrass sensation ‘The Soggy Bottom Boys’ in The Coen Brothers’ ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’. Their song ‘A Man of Constant Sorrow’ was covered by Richard, Billy, Jensen, Rob and Jason at JIBCon (as Cinque Formaggio).
The horse Rich rides as Dugan is named Two-Bit. Max Arciniega, who portrays Stilwell in the movie, confirmed via Twitter that his horse is Big Red.