Certain films do beg the question as to how on earth they were
greenlit in the first place. Despite the pedigree casting (James Caan,
Vera Farmiga) sadly Keanu Reeves’ thespian-cum-bank robber caper is more
likely to deter you from ever watching Chekhov again than doing time.
Built around the tale of Henry, a bored toll-booth operator who
inadvertently is sent to prison for armed robbery, said crime of the
title revolves around his decision, once released, to actually rob the
bank anyway – you’ve done the time, why not do the crime? With
the help of fellow ex-con Max (Caan) and his ex-wife’s lover Joe, Henry
discovers an old tunnel that connects the local theatre directly to the
vault next door. Via a hit-and-stay with Julie’s (Farmiga) car, he
decides acting is the perfect cover and combines treading the boards
with digging beneath them before opening night beckons.
Obviously deciding quirky, low-key drama is the one thing missing from his CV, Reeves turns in another expressionless, cold performance.
Though well suited to The Matrix’s Neo or Speed’s beefed-up cop Jack,
here it looks oddly unsettling, particularly during key scenes in which
not only is he required to act on screen, but actually act in a play on
screen as well.
He’s not helped by Sacha Gervasi and David White’s script which glosses over important back story (and
regulates Judy Greer’s role), making bank robbery look as easy as
wandering into your local branch and asking for the vault key. Even Caan
looks faintly embarrassed given his Godfather legacy – he must have had
more trouble picking up his paycheck.
Thank Chekhov then that someone cast Farmiga as Reeves love interest,
who just about carries enough warmth and range for both of them. As the
talented but slightly luvvie-ish Julie, she holds the screen and stage
long enough to almost counter-balance Reeves’ monosyllabic delivery. If
comic scene of the year doesn’t go to watching Reeves receive, and then
completely fail to act on the direction he’s given on stage, then he’s
missing out. As a mockumentary it might work, as a romance it fails to
ignite the faintest spark.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy this dull caper (which gains an extra
star thanks to Farmiga) very much depends on whether you enjoy watching
one of theatre’s Godfathers massacred or catching James Caan naked in
the tub. Now, is that really something you want to see?