After Buffalo roustabout Henry (Keanu Reeves) unwittingly takes part in an ill-conceived bank robbery, he takes the fall and goes to jail rather than give up the names of the real culprits — seemingly as much to get away from his live-in girlfriend Debbie (Judy Greer) as any other reason. When he’s paroled, Henry learns of a Prohibition-era tunnel leading from a nearby theater, and — flashing back to a comment from his cellmate, Max (James Caan), who offhandedly remarked that if he’s doing the time he might as well have done the crime — gets it in his head to actually rob the bank for which he has already gone to prison. Soon Max is out of jail too, and working up a scheme with Henry, as well as a somewhat flighty but ambitious actress, Julie (Vera Farmiga, committed and so good), starring in a production of Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard.
Director Malcolm Venville (44 Inch Chest) exhibits absolutely no sense of comedic timing or aptitude for building tension, and Sacha Gervasi and David White’s screenplay is largely indifferent to the madcap possibilities its conceit engenders. It needlessly hauls in a couple extra characters, and then does precious little of consequence with them.
Reeves takes a lot of crap for his acting — sometimes deservedly so, sometimes not. But he is utterly somnambulant here, and just dreadful in a role that really requires much more dynamism. Henry is meant to be someone drifting through life, and jarred awake by the challenge of trying something new (a crime), yes, but he’s also a character burning the candle at both ends, as well as caught up in the bloom of a new relationship, with Julie. Reeves, however, seems intent on playing him like an autistic version of Luke Wilson, the modern-day champion of wet paper bags. This movie is the real crime, guilty of stealing an audience’s time. (Moving Pictures Film & Television, R, 108 minutes)