Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

Henry’s Crime

30 October 2011 by Nicholas in Films

Henry’s Crime is a gentle comedy starring James Caan, Keanu Reeves and Vera Farmiga. It centres on Henry (played by Keanu Reeves) who works in a mundane job on a toll both and lives in a modest house in a relatively loveless marriage with his similarly nondescript wife. This changes very quickly, as an old schoolmate tricks him into acting as the getaway driver in a botched bank robbery.

Going to jail for his part in the crime, exacerbated by his refusal to name the real criminals, Henry ends up sharing a cell with a conman played by James Caan. Their friendship develops organically and Henry is forced to question his attitude  to life and what he actually wants to achieve. But not in a particularly angsty way, and not in such a way as to push it to the forefront of the events on film. Henry’s wife also leaves him, and he finds himself leaving jail to a relatively clean slate.

Returning to the scene of the crime, Henry meets Farmiga, here playing a local actress. Through a series of coincidences and events Henry hatches a scheme to rob the bank again by tunneling into it from the theatre that Farmiga is starring in a play at. He also becomes lead actor in the production. Enlisting Caan’s help in the endeavour Henry has to ask himself what he actually wants: whether it is to star in the play, successfully rob the bank or to nurture a relationship with Carmiga.

Although billed as a comedy, this is more in the vein of “It could happen to you” than anything particularly ribald. The comedy is gentle and not always obvious. The events are not particularly wacky or contrived for comedic effect; this is as much a romantic comedy as anything else. Although it could be argued that it is a journey of one man and his self discovery, I don’t buy that from Reeves’ acting and there is precious little else in the script to suggest that. Of the main leads, Farmiga is the most engaging and gives the best performance. Reeves, as ever, seems a blank state and does not show much in the way of inner turmoil, advancement or even emotion. Within his oft-mentioned constraints he plays the part well and I don’t feel the script asked for anything he couldn’t deliver.

I went into the film expecting a more knockabout comedy and to laugh heartily. What Henry’s Crime is is a gentle, heartwarming story that doesn’t try to be obvious yet isn’t impenetrable. It’s a slight story and there wasn’t really enough happening to hold my interest, but the cast are likeable and it isn’t unpleasant.