Henry’s Crime

Written by:
Emily S. Mendel
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Vera Farmiga and Keanu Reeves in “Henry’s Crime”

Henry’s Crime

Directed by Malcolm Venville
Written by Sacha Gervasi and David White
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga, James Caan
Run Time: 108 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R

When I noted that “Henry’s Crime” is being billed as a “romantic comedy heist film,” I found it hard to see how any movie could fill all those categories. However, “Henry’s Crime” just about pulls it off. And despite some minor grumbles, I was entertained by “Henry’s Crime.”

The film opens with Henry Thorne, (the unmistakable Keanu Reeves) on the night shift in a tollbooth in Buffalo, New York. He silently sleepwalks through his life and doesn’t seem to notice it. Some of his high school buddies trick him into driving the getaway car for their armed bank robbery. Henry is the only one caught. Unable to gather the spirit to fight, or out of loyalty to his friends, he lands in jail.

Serendipitously, Henry’s cellmate is Max (great role for James Caan of “The Godfather” and “Misery” fame), an exuberant con man whose adjustment to prison is so complete that he is content to remain there for life. Max teaches Henry how to take charge of his life. By the time Henry finishes his sentence, he is growing into a newly confident man ready to fulfill his dreams.

Henry’s dream is to steal from the same bank that he was falsely accused of robbing. Henry reckons that since he did the time, he should do the crime. So our erstwhile hero convinces Max to seek parole so that they may tunnel into the bank through a nearby theater company. First, however, they must infiltrate the theater, which is performing Chekhov’s masterpiece, “The Cherry Orchard.” And yes, Henry falls in love with the company’s lead actress (wonderful performance by Vera Farmiga from “Up in the Air”), and with this new beginning, his true dreams emerge, and his life grows increasingly complicated.

The writers, Sacha Gervasi and David White, present the subtle parallels between “The Cherry Orchard” and “Henry’s Crime.” In both situations, the old guard is giving way to the young turks of lowly background. These interconnections add a spark to the film. Reeves’ performance is better than his usual. He succeeds as the repressed and silent Henry, but he’s not my first pick to play the difficult role of a thief playing Lopakhin in “The Cherry Orchard.” Superior performers James Caan and Vera Farmiga simply outshine Reeves.

The excellent ensemble also includes Judy Greer (“27 Dresses”) as Henry’s ex-wife, acclaimed Swedish actor Peter Stormare (“Fargo”) as the frustrated theater director, actor and director Bill Duke (“X-Men 3”) as a bank security guard counting his days to retirement, and actor and Oscar-winning producer, Fisher Stevens (“The Cove”), and Danny Hoch (“We Own the Night”) as Henry and Max’s bumbling would-be accomplices.

The film’s comic component had more deadpan humor than laugh-out-loud hilarity. Perhaps if the direction and timing had been better, “Henry’s Crime” would have been a funnier movie. Also, the heist in the film was not of the tension-filled variety. Yet the film also approaches issues of love, loyalty, aspirations and despair.

Some loose ends are left untied. What happens to the characters? Will they see each other again? Does the play go on? Those who see the movie will understand what I mean.

(c)Emily S. Mendel 2011 All Rights Reserved


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