Henry’s Crime

18 Jun

Title: Henry’s Crime
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Malcolm Venville
Writers: Sacha Gervasi and David N. White, based on a story by Ms. Gervasi and Stephen Hamel
Starring: 
Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga, James Caan, Judy Greer, Peter Stormare, Bill Duke, Fisher Stevens
MPAA Rating: 
R, language
Runtime: 
108 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 
40%

 

I haven’t seen Keanu Reeves in anything for quite some time I think, probably since his supporting turn in 2009’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, or his leading role in the disastrous remake of the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still in 2008. So I was interested in seeing Henry’s Crime if only because this was a guy that I once thought did pretty good jobs in pretty decent films, and had just disappeared from the map recently, even getting his own internet meme from a picture that saw a sad looking Mr. Reeves sitting on a bench. And Mr. Reeves really isn’t that great in it, for reasons I’ll list later, and he gets the show totally stolen from him by two of his co-stars, the always incredible Vera Farmiga and Scott Caan, and the film itself really isn’t all that great, suffering from predictability issues and a pretty slow-burning pace that didn’t do the trick for me at all.

The thing that really put me off about Mr. Reeves’ performance here was his demeanor in the film. He just seemed totally chill, like an SNL parody of himself, which in a way I can definitely understand because his character, the titular Henry, is just this regular toll booth attendant who one day makes a wrong innocent decision and ends up in the middle of a bank robbery he had no intention to take part in and gets thrown in jail. And the thing is that even once that huge life-altering event goes down, Mr. Reeves still gives a performance as Henry that comes off as totally calm, and by doing that, by acting like he doesn’t really care about what happens next, he sort of makes us believe in a way that we shouldn’t, either.

We get to meet the other characters after that, Henry’s wife who leaves him as he sits in prison is played by Judy Greer who I’ve been very vocal about my love for in past reviews, his friend Eddie who was the one that tricked Henry into the bank robbery, and then there’s Max, the James Caan character, who’s Henry’s cellmate while in prison and who seems to know all there is to know about being in one. And the film’s main plot really gets going when Henry is released from prison and meets Julie, the character played by Ms. Farmiga, who I also really love. Julie, you see, is an actress about to star in a production of a Chekhov play and as she and Henry begin to like each other more and more, he visits her at the theater where she is rehearsing and finds out that, oh sweet coincidence, there’s an old tunnel in one of the dressing rooms that actually still connects to the bank him and his friends were caught trying to rob.

I actually really thought at this point in the film that this was definitely headed somewhere I would be interested in watching develop, because all the elements for a very decent screwball-ish comedy where already there. And indeed, you get most of the actors, Ms. Farming and Mr. Caan especially, being totally game for the comedic bits of it, and they’re very good at their individual parts, but considering Mr. Reeves plays the titular character then we have to rely on him quite a bit to get this to succeed, and he never really acquires a solid presence here, looking as tranquil as always, not once embedding Henry with a bit of anxiety that not only would’ve given this film a better leading character, but also provided it with a more kinetic pacing. That permanent subdued feeling about it prevented this one from going to the places it had spent its first act drawing a map to.

So that’s why I won’t find myself ultimately recommending Henry’s Crime, the performances given by Ms. Farmiga and Mr. Caan may indeed by pretty damn good, but the film itself is just so intensely lacking lacking any sort of vitality to it that you can’t really submerge yourself in a place with such terrible doses of energy. I guess I understand what this film was trying to achieve, to position itself as a little muted melancholia-filled comedic indie darling, but it does nothing of the sort, I mean when you have a leading character that’s seemingly so unaffected by every single decision he makes then you can’t help it but feel yourself drift away from the overall effect. Mr. Reeves just isn’t good enough to find the layers and layers required to play Henry in such a fashion and make it feel successful, and that’s just the harsh reality.

But as much as I’m knocking on Mr. Reeves, and deservedly so, the director and writers of this film also share quite a bit of the blame. The script is way too bland, much like the rest of the film, and the direction by Malcolm Venville is way too uninvolved, much like the character of Henry, just appearing very content with what he got. Henry’s Crime isn’t horrible, by the way, because it’s too damn low-key and unassuming for us to really hate it, I’m just ticked off because with a better actor in the leading role and in the hands of a better director I actually could see this story make for a very entertaining movie, either that little indie film it wanted to be or a larger-budgeted comic-ish criminal film with a faster pacing, instead we have something lost in the middle of that, and, much like it’s leading character, apparently not caring or doing much about it.

Grade: C+

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