The Next Three Days Directed by: Paul Haggis Cast: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson Running Time: Rating: PG-13 Release Date: November 19, 2010
PLOT: After his wife (Banks) is sent to prison for a murder she may not have committed, a Pittsburgh man (Crowe) devises a plan to break her out.
WHO'S IT FOR? This one might work for those who didn't see the lawyer-driven Conviction, but are still compelled by a movie about getting a loved one out of jail one way or the other.
EXPECTATIONS: The few fleeting commercials I had seen made it look like a bit of an action movie, which was interesting considering that writer/director Paul Haggis has done writing work of his own on the latest two James Bond movies.
Russell Crowe as John Brennan: It’s hard not to like this character. He’s a loving dad, faithful husband, and sometimes he teaches (whenever he feels like it, I guess). His plunge into “darkness” is also something to admire, however desperate he may get. Crowe succeeds at making his performance the best asset the film has to offer. If only the events that he encountered felt as genuine. Score: 6
Elizabeth Banks as Lara Brennan: Especially compared to the spunky funny girls we’re used to seeing her brighten up absurd situations in, Banks looks fairly grave here. While she does sell her handful of tearful moments, it seems that makeup has a lot to do with this performance. We assume things are going wrong in prison because her hair is getting dirtier, but we don’t feel it from her spare appearances. As for being an inspiration in the story, the film doesn’t sell her loving nature to us very well. We don’t love her as much as we should, especially if she’s going to be at the root of such a crazy plan. I’d steal a stick of gum for her, but that’s about it. Score: 5
Liam Neeson as Damon Pennington: Dressed up like he just wandered in from The A-Team set, Neeson pops into the film briefly to remind us he’s a badass, and then he just disappears. Neeson's slightly interesting, slightly corny all-knowing Confucius of jail breaking doesn’t come back. Strangely, Pennington does get a dedication at the end of the film. Still, no one should ever waste Neeson, nor give him the same amount of screen time as Daniel Stern. Score: 4
TALKING: Taking a cue from his almost entirely silent son, John goes through bouts of the movie where he doesn’t speak, which gives the film a bit of a unique coolness to it. During these events, John is clearly living in his head, and communication to others is only so necessary. The third act is mucked up by a bunch of stereotypical cops that often talk amongst themselves about what to do with John, who John is, etc. Unfortunately it comes with cheap humor like “What kind of criminal drives a Prius?” along with some other banter that is nearly useless. Score: 5
SIGHTS: Though the geography is slightly murky, (just how far away is that prison?) Pittsburgh looks very nice here. The film's most resonant shots are those of the Pittsburgh skyline, which presents the city with a loving touch that is not often seen from Hollywood. Score: 7
SOUNDS: Haggis’ utilization of musical artist Moby is a bit disastrous. One can sense that perhaps he’s going for a Jason Bourne-like intensity with this soundtrack, as Moby did do the famous song “Extreme Ways” (used during Bourne credits). The difference here is that the songs Haggis picks are mismatched tonally to their situations, and without the cool urgency of something like “Extreme Ways.” During a montage about getting pumped up, a cheesy 80’s sounding song plays (which might also be Moby). Even the song that plays during the credits doesn’t work. It neither has the proper intensity from the previous “thrilling” of the story nor any real attitude other than a lounge-like satisfaction. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: Difficult to choose. Brian Dennehy's smirk when being interviewed by the police was pretty funny.
ENDING: Everything is tied up so neatly that it’s slightly surprising John doesn’t do something irrational like show up at RZA’s door and kick his ass before taking back his money.
QUESTIONS: This is a remake? Quoi? Is Anything For Her any good? It must be, right?
REWATCHABILITY: If The Next Three Days came on TV and I couldn't find the remote, I'd probably sit through it, if just to test run my theories about the film after enough time from my first viewing had passed.
The Next Three Days wants to pull in its audience with thrills taking place in our own world, but it pushes them away when it exceeds the amount of times plausibility can be stretched in order to maintain an exciting reality. The third act is the biggest offender in this regard, as its authentic adrenaline is tampered with by the usage of “close calls” and some events that try to be presented as twists. Writer/director Paul Haggis wants to make his concept come true more than he wants to abide by the rules of the reality for which his story is taking place. Eventually everything seems fair game. If the so-called air-tight plan wants to take a twenty minute to break to air out some melodramatic tears, go for it. If John wants to venture into heavy police territory with little disguise while being chased by half of Pennsylvania, he can. It takes a couple hours for images to reach in-state authorities, of course.
On top of this, Haggis sprinkles on unnecessary cheese, from a collection of scenes where John’s guilt is inflamed by people scowling at him, to the true story behind Lara’s rumored “button,” to Lara herself doing something drastic in the getaway car, in the middle of the highway of all places. With a buoyant performance by Crowe and a course of third-act events that aren’t entirely predictable, The Next Three Days rescues itself from being somewhat of a mature, testosterone-fueled after school special. But at times it’s too dangerously close.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10