“An Arresting Thriller”
“The Next Three Days”
Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by Paul Haggis
After starring in lavishly produced period epics like 2000’s Oscar-winning Best Picture “Gladiator,” 2003’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” and last summer’s “Robin Hood,” it may well be that Russell Crowe has gotten to the point of his career where he’s simply too big for small movies.
Not that “The Next Three Days” – a remake of the 2008 French film “Anything for Her” – is a small movie by any means. It anything, it’s a riveting and proficiently made thriller that once again finds Crowe at the top of his game. But it still doesn’t feel particular grand, even when compared to some of his more engrossing character studies, like 1999’s “The Insider,” 2001’s Best Picture-winner “A Beautiful Mind” and 2007’s “American Gangster.”
Maybe that’s because Crowe takes the rare turn of playing a regular guy who doesn’t get buried under a heavy message or an even heavier costume. He’s a Pittsburgh college professor named John Brennan, who has just three days to break his wrongly accused wife (Elizabeth Banks) out of jail.
It’s a straightforward, no-frills approach that also marks something of a departure for Paul Haggis. After writing and directing 2005’s Oscar-winning racial drama “Crash” and 2007’s Iraq War-themed “In the Valley of Elah,” Haggis seems to relish the chance to take a stab at a more crowd-pleasing potboiler.
And boil it does, as “The Next Three Days” starts off slow, but gets better as it goes along. After years of trying to free his wife through legal means, the system breaks down, forcing him to take the law into his own hands.
But since he doesn’t know anything about staging a jailbreak, he turns to an ex-con (Liam Neeson) who mastered the art of breaking out of jail to learn the ropes. He also learns how to open locked doors with everyday items, thanks to various instructional videos that could easily be found on the Internet.
But perhaps Brennan’s biggest obstacle is one of temptation. Lonely after years of seeing his wife in a red prison jumpsuit, he can’t help but notice a very pretty single mother (Olivia Wilde) while watching his son at the local playground. She may be hard to resist, but Brennan fights to keep his eye on the prize.
The payoff occurs when the jailbreak begins, kicking the last 30 minutes into high gear as a smart, gripping and immensely entertaining suspense thriller. It may not be as grand as past films from either Crowe or Haggis, but that’s okay. It’s fun while it lasts, and when it’s over, you’ll move on to the next three movies.
Verdict: SEE IT!