The Next Three Days a wearying affair
Starring Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks. Rated PG. Opens Friday, November 19, at the Cinemark Tinseltown
Next time you’re looking to bust somebody out of jail, consult your local community-college English-lit professor. Well, it helps if the prof is Russell Crowe, here doing his paunchy-American thing as John Brennan, enjoying ordinary middle-class life in Pittsburgh until wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is suddenly arrested for murder. What?
Watch the trailer for The Next Three Days.
The case against her is entirely circumstantial but based on damning coincidences, so she stays in the slammer. John first exhausts legal means to free her and then switches to more devious notions, contacting a grizzled prison-break expert played by Liam Neeson, who has just one scene. It’s a good one, but the immediate disappearance of the tale’s most intriguing character is an early tip-off to all-over-the-map story problems.
Crash maker Paul Haggis adapted this from the French film Pour Elle, which was no great shakes to begin with. The original did, however, offer a tough performance, as the downwardly spiralling missus, from multilingual Diane Kruger who, for whatever reason, did not reprise her role in the English-language version. Banks and young Ty Simpkins are fine as the wife and son, and Brian Dennehy and Helen Carey are quietly natural as John’s elderly, somewhat baffled parents. But nothing and nobody sticks here, except for John’s dogged determination, which makes for a wearying 133 minutes.
In that duration, Haggis could have done so much more. Our hero is a literary guy, we’re told, and in the few moments we spend with his students, they do chat about Crime and Punishment and Don Quixote—not exactly major reaches in the analogy department. The whole movie plays out with that kind of obviousness. Fortunately, Crowe is not as predictable, and by the time he puts his plan into action, near the end of The Next Three Days, we almost believe this Steeltown Dostoyevsky could pull it off. The results are briefly exciting, even if we don’t quite care how they turn out.