The Next Three Days: movie review
Russell Crowe stars in this implausible thriller, 'The Next Three Days,' about a college professor whose wife is wrongly jailed for murder and his plan to spring her.
With most movie thrillers, implausibility comes with the territory. â€śThe Next Three Daysâ€ť takes that territory into uncharted terrain. Suspension of disbelief rapidly gives way to â€śOh, puhleeze.â€ť
Russell Crowe, in one of his wily, sodden renditions, plays John Brennan, a Pittsburgh literature professor whose wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), shortly after the filmâ€™s halcyon opening, is imprisoned for supposedly killing her boss. With a young son to take care of, John spends the next three years trying to prove Laraâ€™s innocence only to realize that the chances of reopening her case are nil. So John does what any good husband would do: He decides to spring her from prison.
This isnâ€™t a bad premise for a thriller, and it even has a psychological angle thatâ€™s potentially intriguing â€“ in trying to rescue his wife, John transforms himself into the sort of cold-blooded avenger she could never love. (The source material is a 2008 cult French thriller, â€śAnything For Her,â€ť that ran a full half hour less than this filmâ€™s unnecessarily long 133 minutes.)
Writer-director Paul Haggis (â€śCrashâ€ť) stumbles early on. The flashbacks replaying the bossâ€™s murder are so ineptly staged that itâ€™s difficult to know if we are meant to be confused â€“ or is it Haggis whoâ€™s confused? The biggest problem is Johnâ€™s unconvincing transformation into a kind of rumply ninja. Early on he gives a lecture to his students on â€śDon Quixote,â€ť and I guess this is meant to explain his quixotic quest to save Lara.
But thereâ€™s a big difference between fantasy and reality, even if youâ€™re a college professor. (Couldnâ€™t Haggis at least have made him an ex-Navy SEAL with a hankering for the classics?) According to this filmâ€™s logic, you are what you teach. I suppose we should be glad John wasnâ€™t lecturing on â€śCrime and Punishment.â€ť
John picks up his jail-break skills mainly through the Internet. (Donâ€™t try this at home.) He also has a quick confab with an ex-con (a dour Liam Neeson), who warns him that the hard part isnâ€™t the escape but the aftermath, when the hunt is on.
The hunt should have come a lot sooner. Until the time when Johnâ€™s plan goes into hyperdrive, â€śThe Next Three Daysâ€ť is all buildup. In its final half-hour, all the stops are pulled. The movie is still wildly implausible but at least itâ€™s hurtling forward. The only thing missing from the proceedings is a windmill for John to tilt at. Or maybe I missed it. Grade: B- (Rated PG-13 for violence, drug material, language, some sexuality, and thematic elements.)
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