Thursday, December 15, 2011

Henry's Crime

Henry (Keanu Reeves) is a reticent tollbooth worker who seems to have checked out mentally, to the point that he doesn't even realize he is the wheelman for a bank heist. While serving out his term, he meets an equally complacent fellow inmate (James Caan) who somehow instills a grain of hope within him. Upon release, Henry discovers a secret tunnel used by bootleggers during Prohibition that runs from the bank he supposedly knocked off to a neighboring theater. A flash of inspiration hits and after convincing his pal to take his parole seriously, the duo insinuate themselves into a production of Chekov's The Cherry Orchard and the live of its demanding star (Vera Farmiga). On paper, "Henry's Crime" reads like pure delight: a crackling crime caper with a clever twist. Throw in actors Caan, Farmiga, and the occasionally charming Reeves, and you've got yourself a knockout. Not so much. Director Malcolm Venville's approach to the material is all wrong, opting for a fanciful interpretation directing his actors to play way over-the-top except for Reeves who is imitating a zombie. Caan is hard to take in an overly Yiddish performance and Farmiga's performance is surprisingly hammy. I really wanted to like this film. I thought the developments with Chekov's play could have been outstanding, but not in the way the film presents them.