DVD Review - Henry's Crime

I feel like this movie is Keanu Reeves (The Matrix) trying to prove that he can act. He should be taken seriously as an actor, if for no other reason than because Reeves' character of Henry by the end is literally performing in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard for a theater in Buffalo. He's told he's a natural and his audition almost made me believe it.

Reeves doesn't need to convince me of much of anything in this movie. His character of Henry is an empty vessel. He works as a toll booth worker in upstate New York. He works the night shift. He drives home to his wife Debbie, played by Judy Greer. They have breakfast. The whole time, he's lifeless, expressionless, a robot almost.

Debbie even asks him if he still loves her. She might as well as ask him if he still feels anything. She could have stabbed him in the chest with a butcher knife and it's unlikely he would have reacted because he seems like he feels nothing.

For Reeves to pull off the blank look doesn't require much and guess what? He succeeds. He's really disconnected and just checked out. It's such a contrast to the music that's put on the soundtrack underneath Reeves and his lifelessness. The music is R&B and funk that's filled with as much life and energy and emotion as you can get. The music and songs come courtesy of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. It is in such contrast to what Reeves is doing that one can only assume that it's a comedic move on the part of director Malcolm Venville.

If that's the case, I could buy it. I could definitely buy this movie as a dark comedy. I'm sure Venville could and would argue that the R&B music is reflective of whatever is going on inside Henry, but I like my interpretation better.

Henry's crime is a bank robbery with a ridiculous outcome. It's ridiculous because Henry ends up in prison and considering the incidents and actual circumstances, he shouldn't have ended up there. Since Venville doesn't show us Henry's trial, we can only assume that Henry had a crappy lawyer, that or Henry wanted to go to prison. Either way, it's ridiculous.

Of course, Venville doesn't play it as ridiculous. He plays it straight from beginning to end and Reeves is his perfect front-man. This lends for all the actors around Reeves to shine. James Caan (The Godfather and Misery) co-stars as Max, Henry's cell mate in prison who is very smooth and charming, even when he's lying. Vera Farmiga (The Departed and Up in the Air) also co-stars as Julie, an actress working at the theater next door to the bank that Henry robs.

Caan and Farmiga just eat up the scenes they have. They never miss a beat. They are delights every single second. Bill Duke who plays Frank, the bank's security guard in his limited presence leaves more of an acting mark than Reeves.

It's not a competition though and overall each actor and act here works. The only thing that didn't work was the ending that screenwriters Sacha Gervasi and David White craft. It seems as if the pair were trying to echo both literally and figuratively the words and themes of Chekhov, but Gervasi and White get a little too obvious and heavy-handed with it. The tone just didn't seem to fit.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 48 mins.


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