Cast: Austin Nichols, Lew Temple, Hassie Hamilton, Ali Cobrin
Director: Ty Roberts
When it comes to another small-budget, limited-release movie like The Iron Orchard, there isn’t a whole lot for them to do that hasn’t already been done. No matter how interesting a concept you have or the message you want to deliver to the audience, there’s a very high probability that this has been done before. That being said, a film doesn’t have to be groundbreaking for it to be entertaining, and that’s the case with The Iron Orchard. An interesting setting and an entertaining story, The Iron Orchard is a standard, average streaming viewing that will keep you occupied for all of its 112 minute runtime.
The film follows Jim McNeely (Lane Garrison), a young struggling man living in Texas who can’t find a job to keep him financially secure. Seeing no other opportunities, he takes a job working in the oil fields. What starts off as incredibly strenuous, backbreaking work eventually becomes something that Jim gets good at and turns it into something he can live off. The Iron Orchard shows us Jim’s journey from a pipe-layer in the brutal industry to eventually working his way up and getting all of the wealth and fame he desires. With this newfound fame and fortune, problems and stress arise that wasn’t already in Jim’s life and that he never thought he would experience. How this impacts Jim, his work, and his relationship with his wife Lee (Cobrin). As you can probably tell from the premise, this feels like a very standard hero’s journey that we have seen countless times before. To put this into perspective, The Iron Orchard is like a poor man’s version of The Wolf of Wall Street without the drug use or hypersexuality. It’s still very much a character study into how people change when you put a large amount of money in front of them, but it’s done on a very average and predictable. The setting of a Texas oil field may be a little more interesting than a Manhattan board room, but once you have an interesting environment you need a strong cast and script to enhance the movie and make it something truly special. Outside of the general premise, Garrison does a very solid job in the leading role showing us the rise and fall of a seemingly normal man and how he gets influenced by wealth and greed. Predominantly known for his roles in television, I could see Garrison making the transition to more mainstream roles if he continues to act at this level. He displays the proper range of emotions for the necessary scenes and always shows the appropriate reaction to the situation he’s in. Whether this is the joy of finally getting financially successful to the point where his past problems are behind him or the struggle to maintain this new level of prosperity, Garrison shows us that he has what it takes to work on larger films in the future. I don’t know whether or not he’ll ever get that opportunity, but if The Iron Orchard is any indication of what Garrison can do in a lead role, he should absolutely get that chance down the line.
Overall, The Iron Orchard is not going to be anyone’s top movie of the year, but for what this movie is, it’s a very solid piece of entertainment with a strong emotional connection and relatability. If this movie was produced by a larger studio and had a budget to support the concept surrounding it, there’s a fair chance that The Iron Orchard delivers the message and story it intended to, but instead we got something more lackluster and underwhelming.
Overall Score: 5/10