Tag Team Review – Henry’s Crime

Hola Casta fans! Here’s a review of a film that is most definitely out at cinemas right now but which you’ve probably never heard of. Never fear though because, as ever, your intrepid Captains of Casta are on hand to dish the dirt on Keanu Reeves’ latest flick (in which Reeves decides to rob a bank after a brief stint in prison). As always in reviews of this ilk, Chris W is in green and Chris M in blue.

At a point in the year where I have sworn to avoid the more mundane offerings of the local multiplex, I sat in my seat to experience Henry’s Crime with a mixture of scepticism and fear.

Here was a movie that not only came complete with the usual ‘indie-ensemble’ trappings of quirky character’s and concept (and we all know how It’s Kind of a Funny Story worked out) but also entered UK cinemas without as much as a silent-farts worth of promotion; until 3 days before seeing Henry’s Crime I had no idea it even existed.

It therefore pleases me to announce that I had myself a jolly old time watching the events of Henry’s Crime unfold.

Slow to get going, and perhaps a little too heavy handed with its message, Henry’s Crime is nevertheless an enjoyable caper-cum-life-lesson-cum-romance-cum-existential-theatre-piece-cum-comedy held together by an intriguing central performance from Keanu Reeves, one of Hollywood’s most cryptic stars but someone who this writer certainly enjoys trying to decode on screen.

There is so much to be said about Reeves’ performance alone that it could drown out the rest of the movie, and perhaps one of these days I’ll take the time to write out exactly why I find him so engaging, but suffice it to say that the role of Henry feels like one that the once-dude was destined to play.

Playing a character who begins the film as an emotionless drone and eventually finds his true self through theatre and the love of a good (if slightly overzealous) woman, there is a case to be made that the film acts as a metaphor for the way audience’s generally perceive Reeves as an actor. At least once I started thinking in those terms it was certainly hard to shake the idea!

Films set around staging a play have a tendency of becoming pompous and flagrant, and it’s hard to find a bank heist story that hasn’t been told a thousand times before. Surprisingly in combining these devices writers Sacha Gervasi and David White have done an excellent job of taking tried and tested subplots and caricatures and moulding them into something that feels half original.

Much of this is down to the casting. Peter Stormare has stolen just about every scene I have ever seen him play in, and as a crackpot director in this film he does not disappoint. Vera Farmiga manages to make neurotic, sexy, stylish, awkward, romantic and stubborn look effortless and certainly deserves better work in the future to back up her turn in last year’s Up in the Air. And as the confidence man with a heart of gold but the cunning of a fox James Caan phones in every line he delivers, but still manages to make each one work and raise a smile whilst doing so- you can see him doing roles like this for the rest of his career just to bring in the bacon.

It won’t win awards, it won’t set the box office on fire and it certainly won’t last long in the memory, but for 90 or so minutes on a Friday evening I was charmed and entertained.

There’s no crime in that.

As referenced by Chris above, there was something of an unspoken agreement that we would try to avoid cack films this year, but something about the prospect of walking into a movie knowing nothing about it other than its title and the fact that it starred Keanu Reeves kind of excited me. It’s all too often we’re  given reason to complain because a lazily put together trailer has shown us the last moments of a film so what’s the best way to counter that? Well of that I’m not entirely sure, I thought I’d give going in blind a shot; whilst it may be true that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, in this case it seems that no knowledge at all is worse.

I really really didn’t enjoy this film and for me its greatest crime is that it’s incredibly boring. In varying degrees it’s a romance which doesn’t feel romantic, a character drama which is all but dramatic and a heist movie in which the heist doesn’t feel at all important. I actually took my ipod out and listened to some music at one point (something I have never done before), I was that bored.

The best thing by far about this film is James Caan who, despite having an awfully underdeveloped character to play (the movie makes a point of establishing that he’s a confidence man and then doesn’t give him anyone to con) is entirely watchable throughout – shame then that he didn’t really have anything to do.

As sure as I am that I really didn’t enjoy this film, I’m still quite unsure what to make of Reeves’ performance in this film. Sure there’s some progression, at the outset he’s a blank canvas; a guy who seems unaffected by pretty much everything, including getting sent to prison – by the end he’s professing his love on stage after being shot in the leg (and running back to the theatre might I add…) however I remain unconvinced that there was anything particularly special from Reeves that anyone else couldn’t have achieved. I’m hesitant to jump on the Reeves bashing bandwagon because there was nothing awful about this, I just didn’t see it as anything special.

Admittedly I might not be the intended audience for this kind of movie (I still stand by the fact that Punch Drunk Love was awful – seems to be a good indication of my take on this kind of thing) but even if it wasn’t as excruciatingly boring, its slight positives can in no way counter the slap dash approach it has to so many of its key plot points; the heist which is integral to so many aspects of the movie as a whole is the greatest casualty of this and by the end fades into the background so much that you barely care whether they get away with it or not. Maybe that’s the point of the whole thing, but without a better focus on delivering a solid message in its finale to bring a tidy close to proceedings, Henry’s Crime feels little more than mundane.

Next time I get the urge to walk into a movie blind, I hope that I grab hold of myself and at least force myself to look at a poster. Arguably having the right expectations at the outset could have led to a different experience for me, but I have no doubt that I’d still be saying that Henry’s Crime has set the bar pretty highly for the most boring cinematic experience of 2011.


3 Responses to Tag Team Review – Henry’s Crime

  1. Fade says:

    I don’t think ‘Henry’s Crime’ even made an appearance in Canadian cinemas. I have to say to say that since ‘Street Dogs’ – as seen with Chris_W – I’ve never been able to look @ Keanu the same way. You’ve got a thing for the dude, no doubt in my mind.

    • misschraddon says:

      Hey man, good to hear from you! Strange that Henry’s Crime didn’t come out your way what with Reeves being Canadian and all – maybe it’s part of the ongoing trend of us getting things first (it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet!). Whatever the weather it was pretty pants anyway so you’re not missing out 😉

      • wakeman24 says:

        Yeah I’d definitely second that- even though I didn’t hate on it (saved that experience for The Next 3 Days) it certainly won’t live long in the memory and isn’t worth tracking down whatsoever. I don’t love him or anything, there’s just something enchanting about his face and stare. He’s an enigma, more so than anyone else in Hollywood.

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