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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.

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Liam Neeson (l.) and Russell Crowe are shown in a scene from 'The Next Three Days.'

Phil Caruso/Lionsgate/AP

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With most movie thrillers, implausibility comes with the territory. “The Next Three Days” takes that territory into uncharted terrain. Suspension of disbelief rapidly gives way to “Oh, puhleeze.”

Russell Crowe, in one of his wily, sodden renditions, plays John Brennan, a Pittsburgh literature professor whose wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), shortly after the film’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 Lara’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 isn’t a bad premise for a thriller, and it even has a psychological angle that’s potentially intriguing – 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, “Anything For Her,” that ran a full half hour less than this film’s unnecessarily long 133 minutes.)

Writer-director Paul Haggis (“Crash”) stumbles early on. The flashbacks replaying the boss’s murder are so ineptly staged that it’s difficult to know if we are meant to be confused – or is it Haggis who’s confused? The biggest problem is John’s unconvincing transformation into a kind of rumply ninja. Early on he gives a lecture to his students on “Don Quixote,” and I guess this is meant to explain his quixotic quest to save Lara.

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