Reviews Are In for Henry's Crime

Henry’s Crime finally got its theatrical release. I’ve been looking forward to it not to see close-ups of Keanu Reeves or Vera Farmiga, but to see the scenes that were shot in and around Tarrytown, including the Tarrytown Music Hall. (If you didn’t catch the previous post about the film, here’s a quick premise: A man, played by Keanu Reeves, is wrongfully imprisoned for a bank robbery, and, upon his release, decides to actually rob the bank he was imprisoned for robbing. Got it?)

Fans of spotting local sites will not be disappointed. There are lots of shots of the Music Hall—inside and out—as well as the street in front of it and a café across the street. (Is that Chiboust?) Sure, it’s supposed to be a stand-in for Buffalo, and I think the movie does Buffalo a great favor by shooting Tarrytown instead.

It’s odd, really, because some scenes were shot in Buffalo. The bank, for instance, was definitely Buffalonian. It’s supposed to be right next door to the theater—the whole reason Henry’s interested in the theater is because there’s an old bootlegging tunnel between the bank vault and the theater dressing rooms—but the buildings are never pictured side-by-side, because there’s a whole state in between them. So picking out little tidbits like that is fun if you know the area.

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Unfortunately, though, if you’re just a fan of cinema and don’t care about seeing local landmarks on screen, you might not enjoy the film as much. I personally thought that actors Vera Farmiga and James Caan put in some good performances, and they did an interesting job in threading The Cherry Orchard—the play going on at the theater that Henry gets a part in to get access to the dressing-room tunnel—into the rest of the story in unexpected ways. (It’s also kind of funny to see Keanu Reeves pretend to be an amateur actor and listen to the other characters give him acting advice.)

Other than that, the character of Henry is so mellow it’s hard to tell if he’s a secret bank-robbing mastermind or someone who’d just go along for the ride once he planted the idea of bank-robbing into his accomplice’s heads. (Ditto for the acting side of the plot—it’s hard to tell what he thinks of having to act in The Cherry Orchard as a subterfuge.) That makes the whole movie harder to read.

And I’m not the only one who thought so. The film currently has a score of 47/100 on Metacritic—which the site reports as “mixed or average” reviews. Here’s what some of the critics had to say:

“There are movies that are so low key they risk enervation. If the movie is purposely chill, you may be able to go with the relaxed flow; but if it’s too subdued, you might feel like slapping it (or yourself) awake. Henry’s Crime, a muted comedy with Keanu Reeves, is a painless, at times likable, drifty comedy. But its mood is so muffled and point so submerged, it’s difficult to see why Mr. Reeves and the rest of the cast pooled their talents to make a movie about a nowhere man going no place in particular in Buffalo.”
The New York Times

“Life-changing epiphanies come in all shapes and sizes, but the one that transforms the protagonist of Henry’s Crime is a strange bird indeed: implausible and barely perceptible. In part, that’s because of Keanu Reeves’ blank take on a working stiff turned lawbreaker. Beyond his performance, the film’s ungainly mix of heist, romance and backstage comedy never jells. It’s never painful, though, especially when James Caan and Vera Farmiga are onscreen. But there’s only so much life anyone could breathe into this inert caper.”
The Los Angeles Times

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“Movie characters so often operate on dime-store psychological motivation that when a movie like Henry’s Crime features less explicable actions, it’s tempting to applaud its inscrutability, its willingness to embrace strange and illogical behavior. But Malcolm Venville’s crime comedy grows its set-up so long and shaggy that it verges on absurdity—the non-comedic kind.”

“It’s a grating muddle, typified by Reeves as a protagonist who’s so frustratingly vapid that even the other characters seem baffled at his blankness. As the eponymous Henry, Reeves makes a series of dramatic, life-altering choices, yet he seems so sleepy and vacant that it’s impossible to tell whether he’s supposed to come off as crafty or just too dumb to understand the consequences of his actions.”
The A.V. Club

Did you see it? Let me know what you thought in the comments.

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