Thursday, April 07, 2011

“Henry’s Crime” – Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw what you might call a comedy/caper flick called “Henry’s Crime”, starring Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga and James Caan. 




When a man falsely convicted of robbing a bank decides to actually rob that same bank once he’s paroled, he enlists the aid of some unlikely accomplices – but will an unanticipated romantic entanglement spoil his plans?




After a year in prison for a crime he did not commit, Henry (Reeves) slowly begins to try to insert himself back into society following his parole. Although acquaintances deceived him into being the driver of the getaway car for a bank robbery, Henry wound up doing time anyway – which is how he met friend and mentor Max (James Caan), a now “retired” con man who’s quite comfortable with the notion of spending his remaining years behind bars. But once on the outside, Henry becomes obsessed with the exact same bank the police think he tried to rob and winds up planning a real heist of his own. Realizing he can’t do this by himself because he’s not truly a career criminal, Henry successfully convinces Max to get paroled, too, so that he can help him both plan and execute the job.


When they realize the easiest way to the bank’s vault is actually through a nearby theater, Max volunteers to work for the acting group who perform there so he can have easy access to the space for the purpose of casing out the environment. During a rehearsal of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”, one of the actors quits; Henry then seizes this opportunity to audition for the part so that he can join Max at the theater. Winning the role, Henry gets a dressing room that’s in close proximity to the bank’s vault; together, they start digging towards the vault through a wall in the dressing room, but soon realize that the job will be too much for them. Henry then recruits the slow-witted Joe, the guy for whom Henry’s ex-girlfriend dumped him. While Joe and Max proceed to dig towards the vault, Henry finds he is also falling in love with Julie (Farmiga), the actress who’s playing the lead role in “The Cherry Orchard”.


Before long, Henry reveals the truth to Julie, who is concurrently horrified and thrilled by the notion of now being an accomplice to a crime. Julie, trying to remain loyal to her new boyfriend, doesn’t reveal to anyone what she knows. As rehearsals progress and the thieves dig their way closer to the vault, they soon realize that the timing of their crime must unfortunately coincide with the opening night of the play – otherwise, they’ll wind up losing out on millions of dollars. At this point, Henry must make a very important decision: Should he go through with the bank robbery and bail out on the play, causing him to lose his girlfriend? Or should he remain with the play in order for he and Julie to stay together, which would risk the big score that could change everyone’s life for the better?




Typically, when a movie takes many leaps of faith – or “suspensions of disbelief”, if you prefer – I wind up disregarding it as asking too much from its audience.  For some reason, however, I did not do this with “Henry’s Crime” and hours after seeing the movie, I’m still not exactly sure why.  Perhaps the real reason may be due to the fact that this story is so unique and creative and original that I was willing to overlook some things that didn’t quite logically parse.  Ultimately, I suppose that’s why I want to recommend this movie to you – but if you’re not as in love with its quirkiness, then maybe you won’t be quite so willing to forgive its flaws.  That’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself. 


Albeit cautiously recommending this film, I enjoyed so much of it that I do hope it will be reasonably successful because unusual works such as this one certainly deserve some degree of recognition, no matter how modest.  When you look at the casting on this flick – which, aside from the stars, also includes the wonderful Fisher Stevens and Bill Dukes in smaller yet nevertheless quite crucial roles – that will make you want to see “Henry’s Crime” … and rightly so.  Is this a movie that might get lost because it’s an “indie” with a meager advertising budget?  Perhaps.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be ignored.  Quite the opposite, in fact – make an effort to check this out and you’ll most certainly be glad you did.


Curiously, there were in-class  interviews both before and after the film – I suppose this was due to scheduling conflicts.  Prior to the screening, we were treated to an interview with one of the movie’s stars, the talented and extraordinarily sexy Vera Farmiga.  Having both seen her – and fantasized about her – in so many incredibly good movies, experiencing her being interviewed in my movie class was absolutely a dream come true.  She spoke quite extensively about her background as a Ukrainian American and the fact that she originally did not set out to be an actress – in fact, she wanted to have a career as an optometrist!  After the screening, there was an interview with the film’s Director (Malcolm Venville) and one of its Producers (a woman whose name, I’m ashamed to say, has slipped my mind).  They talked about the difficulties of shooting (the Producer, in particular, mentioned an extraordinary scene at Niagara Falls) and scenes shot but omitted from the final cut of the movie (the Director hinted that an epilogue of the characters might appear on the DVD version of the movie).



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