‘Old Henry’ review: Can’t keep him down on form

‘Old Henry’ review: Can’t keep him down on form
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‘Old Henry’ review: Can’t keep him down on form

‘Old Henry’ review: Can’t keep him down on form

“Old Henry” takes a solid, honorable move to prove once again that the square western is not dead, although in paying tribute to its ancestors, it inevitably stands in their very long shadow.

While the original standoff scenario is woefully limited in time and space, it’s hard to imagine Budd Boetticher, who created seven fantastically economical Westerns with Randolph Scott, bringing the opposing sides closer together for nearly 40 minutes. Tim Blake Nelson plays the title role, a farmer who keeps his past covered by his son (Gavin Lewis). When Henry brings home Curry (Scott Hays), an injured man he finds with a bag of cash nearby, three others, led by Ketchum (Stephen Dorff), come to the farm to pick him up.

Ketchum and Curry both say they represent the law, and a quietly effective scene finds the cunning Henry, who feeds Curry at night, trying to entangle him with questions. It takes a few scenes before the performance begins—Nelson, perhaps the actor best suited to a Western, initially comes across as self-conscious, not to mention dwarfed by an extraordinarily wide-brimmed hat—but Captures the spirit of the living characters.

Writer-director Potsi Ponciaroli is sometimes too mature in giving the dialogue a stylized twang, and the plot itself is burdened with symbolism it can’t support. (Even the choice of aspect ratio—the rare, ultrawide 2.66:1—suggests a kind of redundancy.) Ponciroli also cheats a bit with perspective. Still, he’s learned a lesson better illustrated in Howard Hawks and Clint Eastwood’s various classics: Deliberate pacing pays off in a satisfyingly unsettling climax.

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old henry
not evaluated. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. in Theaters.

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