Movie review: ‘Henry’s Crime’

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.

As the story opens, Reeves’ Henry is a married tollbooth attendant in Buffalo who barely occupies his life. As the sign on his booth (“Wait for Ticket and Change”) indicates, something’s about to give. It takes Henry awhile — a year in jail for a crime he didn’t commit — to recognize that he wanted out. After retrieving a single box of possessions from his ex-wife (Judy Greer), he meets cute with local actress Julie (Farmiga, wonderfully sharp-tongued). In his impassive way, Henry determines to make his time in the slammer count, retroactively, by committing an actual crime.

That involves infiltrating the production of “The Cherry Orchard” in which Julie is starring and excavating a Prohibition-era tunnel between the theater and the bank across the street. Caan is a delight as Henry’s partner in crime, a self-described confidence man — in essence, an actor. But the aimed-for comic collision between nuts-and-bolts crime and the thea-tah materializes only in the clunkiest of ways, and the Chekhov angle lends no heft to this piffle.

“Henry’s Crime.” MPAA rating: R for language. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes. At the Landmark, West Los Angeles; Encino Town Center; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Irvine Westpark 8.