Keanu Reeves is a great actor—when he doesn’t speak. It’s the reason for his success in all-out action movies and lack thereof in all other genres. Perhaps that’s why only the first 30 minutes of Henry’s Crime, where he’s a soft-spoken yes man, are vaguely entertaining.
Reeves plays Henry Smith, a pushover tollbooth worker in Buffalo, New York who goes to jail for his unknowing involvement in a bank robbery. While inside, Henry meets the irrepressible confidence-man Max (James Caan), whose offhand remark about his incarceration for a crime he didn’t commit convinces him to actually rob the bank once he’s out. Somewhere along the way he gets hit by a car driven by Julie (Vera Farmiga), an actress and soon-to-be love interest, and the story proceeds on an absurd tangent.
There are a number of problems with Henry’s Crime, but what makes it almost unwatchable is its punishingly slow pace. Dull, monotonous and soundtrack-free save for a few random bursts of jazz, staying awake for the film’s 108 minutes is a challenge. The film’s plot is also wildly implausible and poorly thought out; most of it is about a play within the film (Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard), as Henry poses as an actor to gain access to a secret passage between the bank and the adjacent theater. It’s amusingly ironic that the character of Henry is complimented for his natural acting ability. With time running out and too many threads to tie up, any residual interest you have in the film will disappear before its conclusion. James Caan provides the film’s rare bright sparks with his slick portrayal of the streetwise Max, but every bit of wit and swagger he delivers is counteracted by the wooden Reeves and the over-flamboyant Farmiga (who seems to be channeling her best Julia Roberts impersonation).
Perhaps if a more charismatic actor had been cast as the lead in Henry’s Crime, it may have succeeded in being an offbeat indie heist dramedy, but really Reeves ought to stick to what he does best—keeping his mouth shut.