Henry's Crime (US - BD RA)
Jonathan endures this crime drama with Keanu Reeves and James Caan
Reeves stars as Henry Torne, a wrongly accused man who winds up behind bars for a bank robbery he didn’t commit. After befriending a charismatic lifer (Caan) in prison, Henry finds his purpose — having done the time, he decides he may as well do the crime. But his outlandish plan to rob the very same bank spins wildly out of control, as he finds himself performing in a stage play and falling in love with the production’s seductive leading lady (Farmiga). (From the Fox synopsis)
Henry's Crime comes packaged with the cute tagline "If you've done the time, do the crime." By itself, it sounds like an intriguing premise. Unfortunately, the movie parades the line around, as it's used more than one time in the film between characters. It becomes tiring instead of clever. And you know those trite scenes that some movies have where the characters are reading from a script and the words they're reading end up perfectly reflecting their situation? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang had a great parody of them. Henry's Crime has more than one scene like this, and its done with complete sincerity, like it is the first movie that ever had the idea. That should give you a pretty clear idea of what the writing in this movie is like. Whenever the story calls for some clever dialogue (for example, Caan's character has a parole hearing), the movie simply steps over that segment and continues into the next scene. Some movies can get away with a bad script if they have style to burn, an interesting story to tell, or an entertaining cast that rises above the material. This film has none of those.
Vera Farmiga, James Caan, and Keanu Reeves are all quite capable of fine performances, but the poor writing and direction of the film snuffs out any nuance they may have brought to the table. The main character, Henry, is an apathetic man who usually speaks in simple terms and doesn't show much emotion. In the right hands, its a character that could be a mysterious and intriguing introvert, but Reeves fails to make Henry an interesting, or even likable leading character. It makes it impossible to buy into his characters inspiration. Vera Farmiga, who I usually love, is just an irritating character in this. Farmiga seems to be doing the best she can, but her loud crass character isn't somebody I would want to share a room with, much less root for in a movie. Caan is great, but I couldn't help but think of a similar character he played in Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket to much greater effect. My favourite performers were Peter Stormare (or as many know him, "that creepy guy from Fargo") as an eccentric play director and the underrated Bill Duke as a bank security guard.
I took a little time to research the director of Henry's Crime (Malcolm Venville) and noticed his first and only feature length film was 44 Inch Chest; another crime drama with a more than capable cast that didn't amount to much. Stylistically speaking, the movie is just as lifeless. The camera seems to be doing even less than the lifeless actors. The already-dull subject matter could've benefited greatly from more liberal editing or any attempt to infuse the screenplay with some life. Aside from some appealing set decorations on the stage play and a few decent shots of the cityscape, the camera is just there to capture the performances. I can't help but feeling that this material would've been enormously entertaining in the hands of someone like Guy Ritchie or Rian Johnson. Perhaps Venville was trying for a more classic approach, and while I can admire the restrained approach, I don't find it remotely successful in this instance.
This 35 mm film has been given a solid 1080p/24 (AVC) transfer from Fox. The movie doesn't have much style or visual beauty to take full advantage of the format, but in terms of pure technical presentation, there is very little to complain about. The film, which always seems to be taking place in winter, features mostly cool, unsaturated colours during outdoor and nighttime scenes. Some of the stage designs for the Chekov play performed in the film are more bright and colourful, and show great depth, but even these interior scenes are mostly dark. Black levels are fine if not exactly reference level, and the only noticeable compression artefact is some blocking in dimly lit scenes.
This is a small, quiet film, and the DTS-HD Master Audio track handles it without a hitch. The subject matter doesn't call for fancy sound design, so there isn't much directionality to the track aside from some moving cars and the faint reactions of the theatre's audience members in the surround channels. The films soundtrack is composed mostly of swinging jazz music. It isn't exactly my cup of tea, but it works for the material and sounds great on Blu-ray. I was surprised to find that Fall On Your Sword, whose original youtube videos I've come to enjoy, had a part in composing the score. Dialogue levels are just right and never struggle to be heard over the music or ambient noise. The LFE channel won't get much attention aside from the music.
There are none. Not even a trailer.
With the right director and a better script, Henry's Crime could've been an enjoyable caper, but as it stands it's just a lifeless crime drama with uninteresting characters in desperate need of a sense of fun. Special features are nowhere to be found, but Fox gives this Blu-ray release a fine audio track and a great video transfer that shouldn't disappoint fans.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 23rd August 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Easter Egg: No
Director: Malcolm Venville
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga, James Caan
Genre: Comedy, Crime and Drama
Length: 108 minutes
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