by Cameron Bailey
A gem of a comedy that consistently surprises, Henry’s Crime boasts marquee stars playing beautifully between the hum of ensemble acting and bright flashes of movie-star thrills.
Keanu Reeves plays Henry, an unfulfilled man in Buffalo, New York. He sleepwalks through his job at a highway toll booth and his drab life at home. When he stumbles across the scene of an armed robbery, it’s no surprise that he’s swept up by the police, who mistake him for one of the robbers. Unable to muster the spirit to put up a fight, Henry soon finds himself behind bars.
Luckily, his cellmate is Max (James Caan), a career criminal who teaches Henry a thing or two about how to take what you want from life. By the time Henry finishes his sentence, he’s a new man. Now he figures that since he did the time, he might as well do the crime. So Henry and Max decide to rob a bank. Just then, he’s hit by a car. Out pops Julie (Vera Farmiga), the local Buffalo lottery girl from TV. It just so happens she’s also an amateur actress.
It’s here that Henry’s Crime leaps into the staccato rhythms of romantic comedy. The best way into the bank vault is to dig a tunnel from the old theatre across the street. But the theatre is occupied by a small company rehearsing a production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in which Julie is, coincidentally, starring. So although Henry has never acted before, he has to find a way to join the cast, get the money and win the girl.
Director Malcolm Venville drops all the ingredients into the pot and stirs furiously. The money in the vault is a MacGuffin, so too is the Chekhov production – although Peter Stormare has some hilarious scenes trying to teach Henry to act. What this movie really revolves around is Henry’s awakening, as he realizes that his love for the brash, impatient Julie is the true meaning of his life.