No doubt this has happened to you. Despite being voted “Most Nicest Guy” in high school, you’re in your 30s, stuck at dead end job, with no prospects in sight. Suddenly you get life’s wakeup call when you accidentally get involved in a failed bank heist thanks to Fisher Stevens. Then, when you refuse to name the real criminals, despite your pleading wife (Judy Greer) you wind up in jail for your transgression. You lose your wife and want her only to be happy. Then you meet some really offbeat folk that awaken you.
No? Well, that’s what happens to Keanu Reeves in Henry’s Crime, an offbeat and underrated little film that is now out on DVD from 20th Century Home Entertainment. There Keanu sits in prison, still wondering how he got there, when he is befriended by Max (James Caan), a long-term convict who teaches Henry that every man needs a dream and then to make his life about obtaining that dream. Of course, it’s hard to pursue a dream from behind bars. It takes Henry a year, but he gets out and takes those precious first steps towards something, perhaps for the first time in his life, real.
Henry’s dream? To rob the bank again but this time get it right. He recruits Max and his fellow cellmate to use an abandoned bootlegger’s tunnel to reach the bank. To get to the tunnel, though, Henry winds the lead in a theatrical company staging Chekhov’s, The Cherry Orchard. As the scheme develops, life tosses Henry a curveball when he falls in love with his leading lady (Vera Farmiga).
Keanu hasn’t been this charming and funny since the Bill & Ted movies, displaying a fresh side to his persona and a welcome one at that. This movie is more screwball comedy from an earlier era than a real crime drama. Director Malcolm Venville takes things slowly, probably too slowly, a vastly different tempo than you expect from the genre but he coaxes fun performances from his cast.
In other hands, this could have been a stronger film, with sharper performances and a tighter structure but it is still entertaining enough and worth a look. The DVD transfer is clean and the disc comes with no extras.