HENRY'S CRIME (15)***

Mundane life imitates high art in Malcolm Venville's mediocre crime caper, which contrives a daredevil bank robbery during a theatre production of The Cherry Orchard.

Screenwriters Sacha Gervasi and David White draw parallels between the plot of Chekhov's masterpiece and the internal conflict of their hapless protagonist, who has always accepted his grim fate with silent, weary resignation.

Until, that is, he decides to take charge of his destiny and realises that you have to risk everything, including a broken heart, to win the greatest prize in life.

The marriage of love story and literature worked well for Shakespeare In Love and Venville's film follows a similar dramatic trajectory, with a doomed on-stage romance between actors spilling into the dressing rooms.

However, Henry's Crime doesn't have as many snappy one-liners and many of the peripheral characters are poorly defined.

Keanu Reeves delivers a low-key performance as toll booth collector Henry, who works the night shift on a highway in Buffalo, New York, then returns home to his broody wife, Debbie (Judy Greer).

The marriage stagnates and a deep discussion between man and wife is interrupted by Henry's friends Eddie (Fisher Stevens) and Joe (Danny Hoch), who need their pal to drive them to a baseball game.

Little does Henry realise that Eddie and Joe plan to rob a bank and he will be their driver.

Security guard Frank (Bill Duke) arrests a bewildered Henry at the scene, who is sentenced to three years behind bars.

Freed after one year, Henry decides to rob the bank for real.

"I did the time, I may as well have done the crime," he concludes.

With his cellmate Max (James Caan) as an accomplice, Henry concocts an ill-advised plan to break into the bank vault via the dressing rooms of a nearby theatre, which is staging The Cherry Orchard.

As the scheme takes shape, Max has a brainwave: Henry should take the lead role in the play opposite the beautiful Julie (Vera Farmiga).

"I'm not an actor," splutters the former toll booth collector.

"You're not a bank robber either, but you're doing that," cheekily retorts Max.

Henry's Crime is a gently effervescent diversion but without its high profile leading man, Venville's film would probably have been consigned straight to DVD.

Reeves is a sympathetic hero, who finally develops a backbone after being used as a doormat by everyone, and Caan has a twinkle in his eye as he delivers all of the script's best lines, like when Julie asks if Max knows Chekhov and he quips, "Next to Gorbachev, he's my favourite Russian!"

On-screen chemistry between Reeves and Farmiga simmers but never boils over, undermining the credibility of the shamelessly feel good resolution.

Stevens, Greer and Peter Stormare are wasted in undernourished supporting roles – they deserve better.