Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, RZA, Michael Bule, Daniel Stern, Jason Beghe

Director: Paul Haggis

Writer: Paul Haggis

Cinematography: Stephane Fontaine

Original Score: Danny Elfman, Alberto Iglesias

Running Time: 132 mins.

Russell Crowe is an actor who operates at his very best when playing “normal” men, that is to say under-played parts where he is a member of the public such as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider and more recently Cal McCaffrey in State of Play. We can now add to that list John Brennan, a husband and father going to extreme lengths to free his wrongly? imprisoned wife from jail, though not in the sense that he goes to law school to become a lawyer (that story has been left to Conviction, starring Hilary Swank, which is out later this month) rather by illegal means, which includes robbing local drug dealers, fraternising with Liam Neeson’s escapee and acquiring fake ID’s from a deaf biker!

If this all sounds a tad far-fetched, it is, though under the steady and assured hand of Paul Haggis it is hugely involving though not quite as gripping as one might hope in its attempts to seat itself as more of a true story than the OTT thriller it could easily have become. Haggis is an award-winning director known for the excellent In the Valley of Elah and Crash, he also wrote these films along with the last two Bond films so is placed well to tackle a drama with thriller elements, sadly one of these elements fares better than the other with the shift from planning the breakout to actually implementing it not quite as seamless as it should be, coming on all too suddenly and not really reaching the edge-of-your-seat moments that were sorely needed to pep up the characters plight.

Genre boxes are ticked in the planning phase, the plan mapped out on the wall, the gruff escapee (Liam Neeson in a rather pointless cameo), the blips in the plan, and so on and so forth, thankfully the character work built into the script stops this all seeming as arbitrary as it is and bolstered by Crowe’s committed turn you will never get bored. Slightly less convincing is the relationship between Elizabeth Banks, as the convicted wife, and Crowe, both actually looking like “normal people” rather than glamorous film stars helps with the authentic tone but the chemistry between the two in non-existent, something not helped by an odd opening scene used to place doubt in our minds as to Bank’s innocence.

Oddly along with this opening is the “so what” ending, one which aims for poignancy but just seems to hit a flat note, maybe owing to the late-in-the-day introduction of generic detectives a and b, who just so happen to stagger upon what may actually have happened, but don’t quite. Though i may seem a little “down” on The Next Three Days it is far from a bad film, in fact it is one of the better ones in recent weeks it is just that after In the Valley of Elah I had come to expect so much more from Haggis in his follow-up, though in all fairness the knack he has for coaxing convincing performances remains (with Crowe) but the flawless perfection of tone and emotion has become a little jaded perhaps owing to this being a remake of a french film, Anything For Her.

Carried over from the original version are a number of sub-plots that add little to the film as a whole, the nature of the film dictates you need a police presence but it is a shame that here it is so hackneyed and feels half-hearted at best, as well as this are a potential relationship with one of Brennan’s son’s friends mother ( now there’s a mouthful!) and a strained relationship between Brennan and his father which is never explained and only ever sketched out to provide a “nuanced” farewell scene where they finally connect, cliché like this really should be beyond Haggis.

VERDICT

The Next Three Days gives us a great performance from Crowe raises this above being just entertaining, though the tone is uneven and some elements fail to convince there are still marks that Haggis may yet reach the heights of In the Valley of Elah once again.


 

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