Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Henry’s Crime starts off resembling one of those crossroad character films. What’s a crossroad character film? It usually involves a character who doesn’t know how life is going to go for them; a lack of direction just seems to consume them. A mid-life crisis if you will. Keanu Reeves plays Henry Torne, a toll booth operator (crappy job, check!) whose marriage has stagnated, (terminal love life, check.) who gets thrown into jail when he unexpectedly lands himself in the middle of a bank robbery plot. Instead of naming the perpetuators (who ludicrously tell Henry to join them for a softball game, and then proceed to rob the bank in their softball jerseys), he takes the rap for no other reason other than to see if he could change his life in prison.
Keanu’s acting has often been criticized as wooden or stiff but he actually does a decent job as Henry. Henry’s a simple nice guy (almost too nice to a fault) and that’s almost perfect for Keanu in an ironically funny kind of way. We did wonder if the role was that one-dimensional or if it was Keanu that was being that way but as the film progressed, he surprised us with some strong scenes with the female lead, Vera Farmiga. The role though, would have definitely benefitted from some subtlety which would have added some sort of complexity but Keanu doesn’t really do anything wrong nor spectacular here other than perhaps being a little too “zen” at times.
While in prison, Henry meets Max (James Caan) and after being released from prison, he gets run over by Vera Farmiga’s Julie. Both veteran actors deliver strong performances as expected, and lend a sense of heft to the film. Max in particular, lends a stark contrast to Henry. He is satisfied with living the idle life in prison unlike Max and is smooth, eloquent and fast-talking, the complete opposite of the quiet and stoic Henry. Julie on the other hand, predictably has a fling with Henry after just one date and falls in love with him. She becomes some sort of plot device for the film to advance although she and Henry eventually have to come to grips with when their priorities clash. It just feels a bit too convenient at times.
The plot actually has some great depth, juxtaposing Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s last play The Cherry Orchard against the characters. That serves as a great background, as we see Henry head down a similar path as Chekhov’s Lyubov when it comes to his life and Julia. Unfortunately, it almost feels like Henry’s such a nice character that no one wants anything to happen to him, screenwriter included. His goals throughout the film are befuddling at times and despite some entertaining bits, the script plods along slowly. There is a reward to for a viewer who can accept the slow plot and ambiguous character and that is the charm of the cast and their performances. A quirky mix of dark humour and drama, Henry’s Crime will satisfy the forgiving viewer with an open mind for entertainment, despite its many missteps.