Mar 16, 2015

Review: Regarding Henry (1991)

Who doesn't love Harrison Ford? Gruff on the outside and probably just as gruff on the inside, he's a walking legend. He'll be forever remembered as Han Solo, Dr. Indiana Jones and to a lesser extent, as Rick Deckard from Blade Runner. His modern work is perhaps a bit lacking besides the film 42 where he played Branch Rickey who was the first executive of the MLB to sign an African-American to play in the MLB. Still, everyone can agree that the 80's and the 90's were his playground.

I'll admit that I've never really heard of Regarding Henry before watching it. It's not a movie that's brought up when you talk about Harrison Ford, but that's certainly no fault of its own when Star Wars and Indiana Jones overshadow pretty much anything put out by Hollywood in all of its history. It's interesting to note that this was J.J. Abrams' second screenwriting project and his first real solo job. Of course this was back when he was going by Jeffrey instead of J.J. funnily enough.


Genre: drama
Directed by: Mike Nichols
Produced by: Mike Nichols, Scott Rudin, Robert Greenhut, etc.
Written by: J.J. Abrams
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Running time: 108 minutes
Production company: Paramount Pictures
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures, United International Pictures, United Pictures Finland, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $50,000,000
Box office: $43,001,500 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Harrison Ford, Annette Bening, Mikki Allen, Bill Nunn, Rebecca Miller, Bruce Altman, Elizabeth Wilson, Donald Moffat, John Leguizamo, Robin Bartlett, James Rebhorn, J.J. Abrams



Henry Turner (Harrison Ford) is a rising attorney in New York City and has just won a major case. His work is his life and that leaves little time to be spent at home with his wife (Annette Bening) or his young daughter (Mikki Allen). Going out one night for some cigarettes, the convenience store he goes into is in the middle of being held up. Ordered to give up his wallet by the shooter (John Leguizamo), Henry is shot in the chest and in the head.


Predictable is Regarding Henry's middle name it seems. Henry has greased back hair, he smokes, he has questionable ethics and he treats most people as being beneath him. So yeah, he's definitely not a great guy at all. Is it all that surprising that this whole being shot thing is a chance at redemption for him? Of course not.

All the same, the early goings of Regarding Henry are alright. Harrison Ford is great at playing Mr. Mean which isn't surprising or anything, but it is nice. Once we get to Henry surviving his bullet wounds and beginning his long road to recovery, Mike Nichols takes us into weird territory. 

Between Harrison Ford's acting, Mike Nichols' direction and J.J. Abrams' script, we have some serious problems here. Now I really hate to point a finger at Harrison Ford, but I can't deny that he's part of the problem in Regarding Henry. RH sort of makes the cut of being about a mentally handicapped character and having competent acting in this kind of movie is absolutely crucial. 

While Ford isn't terrible as the changed Henry Turner, he's not brilliant either which is an issue. He needed to be brilliant to somewhat mask the other issues of Regarding Henry and he just just isn't. Ford comes off as an awkward mess. Maybe Ford's talents don't extend to doing mentally handicapped characters. It's very possible, but for sure Mike Nichols deserves part of the blame here.

His direction does nothing but highlight every awkward Henry Turner moment as well as the sappy, tearjerker nature of Regarding Henry. That then brings us back to the fact that Abrams' script is tearjerky on its own which makes this a pretty circular issue. I was pretty astounded in regards to the crises which seem like they belong more in a soap opera than a $50 million drama with Harrison Ford. Point is, Nichols didn't have much to work with.

The major bright spot of Regarding Henry is definitely Bill Nunn who's absolutely hilarious as Bradley the physiotherapist. He's a very warm presence and he makes you want more of him. Despite the shallowness of Annette Bening's role, I also think she did a great job. I was just very impressed at how convincingly she conveyed her character's emotions and I wish there could've been more of her as well in a less superficial way.

Regarding Henry starts off alright, but Mike Nichols doesn't do anything but emphasize the less desirable elements of the script. The story is painfully contrived and doesn't shy away from soap opera-like sensibilities. Don't even talk to me about the ending. Nichols isn't able to get the best out of Harrison Ford either. While Regarding Henry is perfectly watcheable, it's far from enjoyable as anything more than a passing interest.



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