out of Five
Running time: 108
Enjoyable, bittersweet comedy-drama that has a pleasingly old fashioned feel to it, thanks to an intelligent script, well written characters, impressive direction and a delightful performance from Vera Farmiga that's worth the price of admission alone.
What's it all about?
Directed by Malcolm Venville (44 Inch Chest), Henry's Crime stars Keanu Reeves as Henry, a directionless toll-booth attendant who's shaken out of his dreary day-to-day existence when he's unwittingly roped into a bank heist and ends up serving a year in jail. Inside, he strikes up a relationship with serial prisoner Max (James Caan), who plants the idea in his mind that if he's doing the time, he might as well have done the crime.
After his release, Henry resolves to turn over the very bank he was accused of robbing in the first place, inspired by the discovery of a smugglers' tunnel between the bank and the neighbouring theatre. Roping in a newly released Max, Henry unveils an elaborate plan that involves infiltrating the theatre's upcoming production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, but things get complicated when he finds himself falling for fiery leading lady, Julia (Vera Farmiga).
You might think a film whose central plot hinges on Keanu Reeves giving a convincing performance in a Chekhov play would be a recipe for disaster, but Reeves is surprisingly good, generating strong chemistry with his leading lady and sparking nicely with Caan (in full-on twinkly old geezer mode). However, both Reeves and Caan have the film stolen out from under them by Vera Farmiga, who's utterly delightful from start to finish, whether throwing a diva strop at her director (Peter Stormare), encouraging Henry to act out the play's love scenes with her (before he's come up with that part of the plan) or erupting in bursts of cackling laughter.
Venville's control of the tone is impressive throughout, particularly when the plot of The Cherry Orchard begins to seep into the main story and vice versa. The result is a pleasingly old-fashioned caper film that's vaguely reminiscent of the Ealing comedies.
The only real problem is that the pacing drags a bit towards the end. Similarly, the film completely wastes the comic talents of Judy Greer (as Henry's girlfriend, who dumps him for one of the actual criminals) and criminally under uses Bill Duke (as the bank guard responsible for Henry's arrest).
Henry’s Crime is an enjoyable, bittersweet comedy-drama with a sharply written script and strong performances from its likeable ensemble cast. Worth seeing.