Keanu Reeves in HENRY'S CRIME, a film directed by Malcolm Venville. Picture courtesy Moving Pictures Film and Television. All rights reserved.
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Henry's Crime (2010/2011)
Opened: 04/08/2011 Limited
|Sunshine Cinema||04/08/2011 - 04/21/2011||14 days|
|The Landmark||04/15/2011 - 04/28/2011||14 days|
|Laemmle's Town...||04/15/2011 - 04/28/2011||14 days|
|Laemmle's Play...||04/15/2011 - 04/21/2011||7 days|
|Kendall Square...||04/22/2011 - 04/28/2011||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Rated: R for language.
Working the night shift as a toll collector on a lonely stretch of highway in Buffalo, New York, Henry (KEANU REEVES) is a man seemingly without ambition, dreams or purpose; a man sleepwalking his way through life. He gets his wakeup call early one morning when he becomes an unwitting participant in an ill-conceived bank heist.
Rather than give up the names of the real culprits, Henry takes the fall and goes to jail. There, he meets the irrepressible Max (JAMES CAAN), a con man who's grown far too comfortable with the familiarity and security of his "idyllic" life behind bars, but one who also helps plant an idea in Henry's mind which will change his life forever: for a man to find his purpose, he must first have a dream.
Upon his release one year later, Henry finds his purpose. Having done the time, he decides he may as well do the crime. Discovering a long forgotten bootlegger's tunnel which runs from the very same bank to a theater across the alleyway, he convinces the reluctant Max to file for his long overdue parole -- and then recruits his former cellmate to help stage a robbery.
Their plan is simple: by infiltrating the theater and its current production of Chekhov's, The Cherry Orchard, the unlikely duo will buy just enough time to dig their way to the adjacent bank vault and drive off with their loot. Unfortunately that plan also includes Henry taking the lead role in the play, where he finds himself slowly falling for the production's mercurial leading lady, Julie (VERA FARMIGA).
By turns wry, off-beat, and simply hilarious, HENRY'S CRIME is the heartwarming story of a man who finds his purpose in life. And then finds his destiny.
One of Hollywood's most sought after leading men, Keanu Reeves (THE MATRIX Trilogy) heads an all-star cast that includes Academy Award®, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee James Caan (THE GODFATHER) as partner in crime, Max, and Academy Award®, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee, Vera Farmiga (UP IN THE AIR) as Julie, the actress who captures Henry's heart. The ensemble also includes: Judy Greer (27 DRESSES) as Henry's disillusioned wife, Debbie; acclaimed Swedish actor, Peter Stormare (FARGO) as the frustrated theater director, Darek; actor and director Bill Duke (X-MEN 3) as Frank, a bank security guard counting his days to retirement; and actor and Oscar®-winning producer, Fisher Stevens (THE COVE), and Danny Hoch (WE OWN THE NIGHT), as Henry and Max's bumbling would-be accomplices, Eddie and Joe.
HENRY'S CRIME is based on an original screenplay from writer and executive producer, Sacha Gervasi (THE TERMINAL; ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL) and David White, from a story by Stephen Hamel and Sacha Gervasi. The film is directed by Malcolm Venville (44 INCH CHEST). It is produced by Jordan Schur & David Mimran (STONE), Lemore Syvan (THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE) and Stephen Hamel for Company Films. The executive producers are Scott Fischer and Mark Fischer of Firstar Films, Cassian Elwes, Alison Palmer, Peter Graham, Stephen Hays, and Lisa Wilson of GK Films.
About The Production
PARTNERS IN CRIME: THE WRITING OF HENRY'S CRIME
A heist film like no other, HENRY'S CRIME is at heart a wryly observed, bittersweet comedic love story of one man's improbable journey to find his purpose in life.
For producer, Stephen Hamel, that journey began five years ago. Working with his longtime friend, production partner and legendary performer, Keanu Reeves, Hamel first came up with the idea for HENRY'S CRIME in 2005.
"Stephen had this idea which became the seed of the entire film," explains Reeves of their collaboration, "the story of a man who decides to rob a bank that he already went to jail for robbing. It all kind of took off from there."
"It sprang from my imagination," says Hamel of his initial inspiration for the film, which he soon worked into a treatment -- the comedic story of Henry, a man sleepwalking his way through life who receives the ultimate wakeup call when he's sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit.
"For me, Henry is the ultimate late bloomer, which was something I could relate to," laughs Hamel. "I think we all have that in us, more or less, when we come to a place in our lives where we question whether or not we've made the right choices and have been authentic with ourselves. That's where it started."
With treatment in hand, Hamel and Reeves approached British screenwriter, Sacha Gervasi (who scripted an initial draft with co-writer, David White). Emerging as one of Hollywood's most impressive new talents, Gervasi had recently penned the Tom Hanks film, THE TERMINAL, for director Steven Spielberg, a script which caught the attention of both Hamel and Reeves. "I'd written this film for Spielberg which was set entirely in an airport," explains Gervasi. "The scenario had an absurdist quality which I tried to invest with real emotions and I think that's exactly why Keanu and Stephen came to me. They recognized something about that screenplay that they felt could work for HENRY'S CRIME."
Together, Gervasi, Reeves and Hamel would form a unique collaboration, working on and off over the course of four years, to develop the film's screenplay.
"We went through many, many, incarnations of the story," says Reeves. "There's a long list of characters who were initially there who were changed or simply cut out. Because it kept coming back to that one simple notion of any film -- how do we tell a good story?"
"We worked in a really unique way where you're actually working on the script with the actor while he's experimenting," says Gervasi. "It's really gratifying for a writer to sit there and come up with something and then have him try it out. It felt like we actually started making the movie at that point."
"HENRY'S CRIME ended up being a very unique development process," agrees Hamel. "It was a deeply collaborative one between Keanu, Sacha and I. And the subject matter was not obvious; it's a comedy, but it's also a rather elusive, at times, almost existential story. We really had to pin it down, but once we did it worked really well."
Set in Buffalo, New York, a once prosperous city near the Canadian border, Gervasi's script not only follows the comedic crime spree of its eponymous hero, Henry (Reeves), but a host of curious characters -- similarly at dead ends in their lives -- that he inspires with newfound purpose along the way.
To access the bank, Henry and his former prison cellmate, Max (James Caan), infiltrate the theater next door with the idea of tunneling to the adjacent bank vault. To buy enough time to execute their plan, however, the two characters must immerse themselves in the world of the theater, with Henry ultimately taking on the lead role of Yermolay Lopakhin, playing opposite Vera Farmiga's Julie as Madame Ranevsky in The Cherry Orchard.
Here, the worlds of the stage and street comically collide as Reeves' Henry, having fallen for Farmiga's disillusioned actress, Julie, must choose between his loyalties to his newfound love, his trusted friend, and their planned heist.
"We found that when these two characters were meeting on stage, it could be an extension of the conflict that was going on between them in real life," says Reeves.
For Gervasi, the choice of Chekhov's play, and its thematic parallels to Henry's own story, also proved key to defining the film itself. "The Cherry Orchard is about the destruction of an old time and the beginning of a new one; people having to come face to face with the fact that a particular era is over," explains Gervasi. "They can either rise to the occasion and embrace the future or be left behind as relics... I think it was an interesting counterpoint for our own story."
As in The Cherry Orchard, the characters that Henry encounters -- from Julie to Max, to bumbling would-be accomplices Eddie and Joe (Fisher Stevens and Danny Hoch), to Frank (Bill Duke), the man responsible for guarding the bank itself -- must choose between the safe if unfulfilling landscape of their everyday lives and the adventure and potential riches that Henry's plan presents.
"In a sense, all of the characters are unified by his desire - for Henry, in finding himself, to kind of liberate them," says Gervasi. "And that's what he does in the end. Max is stuck in his own prison, literally, and Henry gets him to move on. For Julie, Joe...indeed, all of the characters, Henry becomes the catalyst for liberating them from lives which have become traps. In a sense, they're all kind of trapped, just like Henry."
For Gervasi, what started as a writing assignment ultimately became an unabashed passion project. So too did his script ultimately prove more than a straightforward heist movie.
"Principally, I think it's a love story," says the writer. "It's about a man who thinks he's going to discover his destiny through correcting a wrong in the universe, redressing the balance of the universal scale, and that somehow leads him to his true destiny -- which is to open his heart."
A CRIME IS BORN: ASSEMBLING THE TEAM
As Henry inspires his fictional counterparts on screen, so too did the script captivate the imagination of the film's producing partners. In late 2009, just prior to the Berlin Film Festival, Reeves approached producer Lemore Syvan, with whom he had just completed director Rebecca Miller's THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE. "After I finished working on that film, I asked Lemore if she would be interested in reading HENRY'S CRIME," explains Reeves. "She read it. She loved it... And we quickly decided to go and try and make it."
Syvan immediately embraced the project, relishing in both its off-beat comedic and romantic scenario and the chance to work again with Reeves. "When I read the script, it was right up my alley, in terms of the writing, the humor, the intent - all of it," she says. "When I look at a script, the first question I always ask myself is, 'Would I want to go see this movie?' The answer this time was crystal clear - I just couldn't put it down. It was so funny and it was so engaging. I finished it and immediately emailed him and told him how much I loved it... I was in it to win it."
So too did the script attract producers and entertainment industry veterans Jordan Schur and David Mimran of the newly formed, Mimran-Schur Pictures, without whom HENRY'S CRIME could not have been made.
"I'd always been a huge fan of Keanu's," says Schur of his initial attraction to HENRY'S CRIME. "I just felt it would be an interesting project when I read the script. I also hadn't seen them make a picture like this for a while; it seemed to feel like an independent film, but a film that could ultimately appeal to a very large audience."
"For some reason Henry reminded me of the Peter Sellers character in BEING THERE," Schur explains. "You couldn't really figure out if this guy really knew something, was smart and had great instincts, or was just a few steps behind. The script and the character kept you off balance throughout the film until you came to realize that even though he's been dealt such a bad hand, he's a winner. I liked the way that felt. It felt like a good story to be told and we wanted to help tell it."
"They were true partners," says Syvan of Mimran and Schur. "They approached this film as a team, were passionate about the work, and were the most filmmaker friendly producers I've ever worked with."
Together, the film's producers would form a genuine partnership, marshalling HENRY'S CRIME, creatively and logistically, from pre-production through to the final edit. At the helm would be their director, Malcolm Venville.
An award winning British photographer, music video and commercials director, Venville had recently completed his first feature, 44 INCH CHEST, an ensemble piece set in London, featuring the iconic British bruisers, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt, which caught the eye of the production team.
"We thought his aesthetic was great, we really enjoyed his film, and when we met with him, he really got the material and the humor," says Reeves.
"We also wanted to find a director who we felt had a great rapport with actors, which clearly he had from his first film," says Gervasi. "Our plan, really, was to find a director who could shoot the movie in an original way as well as bring great ideas and invention to the actual making of it, which Malcolm did."
For his part, Venville, here making his first American film, was simply attracted by the story. "For me it's my second movie," he says, downplaying his US debut. "The crew in New York were really the same as the crew in England. They were passionate about film and they provided great support, both moral and technical... I just couldn't ask for more."
"Instead it was this particular kind of romantic comedy that appealed to me," says Venville. "Especially, the characters. They were dysfunctional, which is a nice way of putting it," he laughs. "They were flawed yet fascinating people and I wanted to bring them to life."
Working with Reeves, Hamel and Gervasi, Venville helped develop the screenplay further, with an eye towards filming the movie's numerous locations within the film's modest budget. He also did his homework.
With Reeves, he traveled to Scotland to soak in a production of The Cherry Orchard on stage, watched additional productions on DVD and met with actors and directors who had previously performed and staged the play. As touchstones for the movie's heist sequences, Venville revisited Michael Mann's THIEF (featuring a young James Caan) and Jules Dassin's 1955 cult classic, RIFIFI. At the opposite end of the cinematic spectrum, Billy Wilder's THE APARTMENT would also provide inspiration for Venville, with its romantic pairing of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.
"Essentially to me it wasn't a heist movie at all," says Venville. "It was really a movie about two people who had to be together, Henry and Julie... The heist is part of that love story and it also plays with our perceptions as an audience. We know if you snip a wire, for example, it's not going to disable a modern bank. It's just not going to happen. But we accept it in this movie. Keanu affectionately describes it as 'preposterous.' And that's exactly what we wanted for the tone, a kind of romantic, magical reality."
"Malcolm brought an earthiness to it," says Reeves. "He was like, 'This is real. This could be real.' Through that we found a kind of naturalism and soul to the piece... It built a momentum that would take us forward."