Friday, April 26, 2013

Day One Hundred and Sixteen - Henry's Crime, "Oh, Keanu... I love you man, but sometimes..."

I think that I'm one of the few critics in the world who actually likes Keanu Reeves... at least, on the internet.

Everywhere I go, I see tirade after tirade that he's wooden, can't act, and that the ever eloquent "whoa" is the extent of his emotive power, yet I don't think there's a single film that I haven't enjoyed of his because he's in it. This is a fact that I tell you true because I even include such stinkers as Johnny Mnemonic, Chain Reaction, and Babes in Toyland.

The film centers around Keanu and his character Henry who we see is stuck in an existence he doesn't want and finds his initial escape by taking the fall for a bank robbery he didn't know he was helping commit. From there the movie starts proper as he's introduced both to his future partner in crime and the love of his life, all in a strange scheme to "find his dream" by getting paroled and actually robbing the bank he was wrongly accused of doing so several years previous.

It's weird.

In Henry's Crime, I see manifest many of the complaints people would make, chief among them that his range is limited to a small sliding scale between "Stiff" and "Slightly Pliant." Still, there's just something about his character's accepting earnestness that pulls you in and makes you feel for the man, makes you want to see his story through.

It certainly helps that James Caan, Vera Farmiga, Peter Stormare, Billy Duke, and Fischer Stevens are along for the ride. Its a weird smorgasbord of character actors in a much more sedate indie flick than I'm sure they're used to, but it oddly works.

Caan is certainly believable as the affable con-man who would rather be in jail than on the outside, and I can't help but melt a little as I see Farmiga and Keanu do their little mating dance. There's just something about how slowly it progresses over the course of the film.

Where most pictures take a light and happy, even comic approach to these sorts of courtships, Henry's Crime gives a slightly more hostile take as Henry and Julia enter in almost from the beginning with the full knowledge of where he's been and what he intends. There's just something sweet about the tacit acceptance that Julia offers him and authentic as they argue over the fact that he's ruining her life by making her an accessory to his crime.

I'm also a huge fan of how the film ends... and I apologize as it's a bit of a spoiler. During the climax, as the bank heist is going on beneath their feet, Henry fights for Julia who has brushed him off as merely a criminal who is using her. I love the way it mirrors (rather intentionally) the play that they're acting in and I love the way said play goes off the rails. Sure, there's a bit of cheese as the audience starts participating, but as Henry and Julia get closer and closer to that one last kiss, Farmiga's final line before the fade out is just bloody perfect.

Well, maybe it wasn't the line itself so much as her delivery of it. It gave me that sudden rush of shivers that climax kiss scenes should but often don't. Kudos to the both of them for it.

It's kind of sad to think about, but Henry's Crime isn't all that great a movie. It's too quiet and more than a bit boring. I liked that Fischer Steven's villain came back, but it was done sloppily and resolved too easily. The heist, the conflict, the Cherry Orchard... they were all too blah as a whole... but I still liked it.

As independent features go, Henry's crime is edited and shot well, it's just that the story and the performances lack that certain oomph that I prefer. It definitely bears the mark of precise craftsmanship when it comes to the grand majority of its technical aspects, it's just not thrilling.

I couldn't recommend it... but I liked it. And that's a bit of a shame, isn't it? I don't think I feel that it's a guilty pleasure or anything, something to be embarrassed about, but I certainly won't be beating down peoples' doors trying to get them to watch it. It was okay and occasionally cute, but ultimately bland.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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