Henry's Crime

TBS used to use a tagline - "movies, for guys who like movies" - which I still think about all the time, even though it's been ten years since they stopped using it. The network was implying that they were showing macho movies for dudes, but when I use the phrase in my head I use it differently. To me, that refers to a specific class of movie: one which you'd probably like if you were a movie person, but if you aren't...

Take for example Henry's Crime. Keanu Reeves stars as Henry Torne, who takes the rap for a bank robbery he didn't commit. While he's in jail he decides that if he's going to have served time for bank robbery then he might as well have the money that comes from bank robbery, too. As soon as he's paroled he accidentally discovers that there is a secret tunnel that leads into the bank he wants to rob. I say accidentally because he just goes into a random bar's bathroom and voila he is face to face with a newspaper clipping from prohibition times with a headline about how the local theater had gotten busted for using the bank's vault and a secret tunnel for smuggling booze. I have to say, it was pretty generous of that bar to place such a convenient news article at eye level above the urinal in the men's room at a time when Henry could have really used that information.

Wouldn't you know it, before long Henry is trying to get into the theater's latest production so he can gain access to the tunnel. And of course, he falls in love with the lead actress, and the play's opening night is scheduled against the best day to break into the vault...

There is a pretty basic level on which Henry's Crime is not so good. That premise is basically insane, and it also involves a staggering number of coincidences. Furthermore, this is a movie that isn't trying to engage with the human condition, and it isn't going to broaden anyone's horizons, so it's not going to sway anyone who thinks that movies are waste of time. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Keanu. He's not necessarily the best actor, but he has a certain charisma which really works when he's in the right role. Henry's Crime does a good job of letting Keanu be Keanu, so I would say that it's a good role for him. (In other words, it gives him a lot of scenes where he's supposed to stare blankly, and only a few scenes with big speeches. Although he does do well with the big speeches.)

And then there's Jimmy Caan, who is Jimmy Caan-ing it up as Henry's prison mentor. And I like Vera Farmiga, too, and she does a good job of being the female lead in the play. If that sounds like Henry's Crime is coasting on my nostalgia for other better movies these actors have been in - well, it kind of is, but there's a little more to it than that. Once everything starts to come together at the end, there's a really nice synergy between the performance of the play on stage and the robbery that's happening down below, even if the coincidental timing of the two events is a bit of a stretch.

So, yes, Henry's Crime is not so good, but that doesn't mean that it's bad. It just means that you have to be the right sort of viewer, in the right frame of mind. I had a friend in college who always fell asleep during movies because she could never make herself care about them; she always thought they were fake. She would hate Henry's Crime, because it has movie stars acting like their movie star personas, not like real people, and because it has a movie plot, not a real life plot, and the characters face movie problems, not real problems. But if you're like me, and you're a guy who likes movies, then you might like this movie, because this is a movie-movie, you know?

Winner: Me

Henry's Crime on IMDB