Henry, as played by actor Keanu Reeves, is a vacant lot as far as being a person goes. He works his job at as a tollbooth collector with no passion or desire, he goes home everyday to see his wife Debbie (Judy Greer) who he has no passion or desire for and Debbie wants a child which is an event that Henry could give or take. Mean people would say that the character of Henry is playing into Keanu Reeves strengths as an actor, but we wouldn’t say that because we like Keanu Reeves here at the FCU and we are not mean people. Nonetheless, on this fateful day the completely scurrilous character with the completely scurrilous name of Eddie Vibes (Fisher Stevens) has asked Henry to sub in for a softball game. In late November. So in addition to being somewhat detached, Henry doesn’t appear to be all that bright either. What Henry didn’t know was that he was being asked to be the wheelman in a little bank heist. It doesn’t go well, at least for Henry, and thus the foundation is laid for Malcolm Venville’s film ‘Henry’s Crime’.
Henry gets three years for this crime since he didn’t snitch. But while Henry might not be the brightest bulb in the box, he knows that prison sucks ass and can’t wait to get out. He did make a friend in the completely nutty Max Saltzman (James Caan) who loves the regimentation that the joint offers up, but Henry just wants out.
So Henry does his time, we won’t worry about the wife anymore since she’s moved on, as Henry tries to find his purpose in life. After getting run over by aspiring actress Julie Ivanova (Vera Farmiga)… it’s complicated… Henry knows his future and that is actually robbing the bank that he went to jail for not robbing. Hey man, that’s what Henry wants to do.
It’s a little involved this heist that Henry has planned but for starters he needs to convince Max to behave at his next parole board meeting so he can get out. When Max hears Henry’s plan to pull this heist off, he immediately wishes he was back in the safe confines of his prison cell. Just know that this heist involves a bank, the local theater
which is preparing a performance of Checkhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’, starring the actress than accidentally ran Henry down, and a long sealed tunnel that links the two together. The good thing for Henry is that this fine looking, albeit bitter and mean actress, has taken a liking to him and has started to have sex with him on a regular basis. The bad news is that she’s bitter and mean. Things get even more complicated when Max, forever the confidence man, engineers for Henry to have a starring role in the play… for heist reasons of course. Couple that with some new information given to them by an old and bitter bank guard (Bill Duke) and we have a heist movie in full effect. But… Henry has a train to catch, and he must leave the woman he loves, because he has sold the Cherry Orchard. You kind of have to be down with Checkhov to get all of that.
So we have some wonderful things working in our favor as we settled down to view ‘Henry’s Crime’. Vera Farmiga continues to show, at this point and time in her career, that as an actress there is very little the woman can do wrong and she has few peers, James Caan was at his nutty charming best in this film, Bill Duke was in this movie and while we are not a fan of much here at the FCU, we are fans of Bill Duke. Plus we love a heist movie.
Thus with all of these things working in the favor of ‘Henry’s Crime’ is wish we could’ve enjoyed it more than we did. And as I sit here thinking about this film, trying to find some way to comprehensibly express why ‘Henry’s Crime’ left me with this empty, middle of the road, feeling towards it, there are a couple of things that stand out.
The mirroring of our main characters in relation to a play by Anton Checkhov might seem a little pretentious at the outset, but it does work and it works in a way that’s simple and accessible. But what this narrative device does is require the actor to expand upon himself in two different narratives, and while Keanu Reeves was pitch perfect when this movie started, with Henry attempting to sort some things out, when the time came for Henry to have conviction, passion, and to know with full certainty what he wants out of this life… that didn’t work as well. This also led to a very odd conclusion, and this next bit is somewhat of a spoiler, but considering that Henry gave up some things to be with this woman he loves… the credits roll, the screen goes dark. In the next scene we won’t be seeing, Henry has to be going back to jail and thus he still won’t be with this woman he loves so much. Just like Lophakin in the Chekhov play. I guess.
Nonetheless, despite the fact that ‘Henry’s Crime’ comes off as one of those quirky, off –beat, artsy, independent type films that only film critics and people from Manhattan actually go to see, I’m still of the opinion that it possesses more than enough solid elements that makes this a worthwhile film to watch. It’s a film that probably doesn’t reach its full potential due to pace we can best term as ‘methodical’ and a star that doesn’t completely bring everything together, but still a solid effort.