Russell Crowe in “The Next Three Days” (2010)
The Bottom Line: A film worth watching, but also one that suffers from the dreaded “Curse of the Remake.”
Directed by: Paul Haggis
John Brennan (Crowe) is a professor at a community college in the Pittsburgh area. When his wife, Lara (Banks), is arrested for and convicted of murdering her boss, he tries to make do as the geographical single father of their son, Luke (Ty Simpkins). John is convinced of her innocence and works diligently with her lawyer on the case. However, after Lara loses on appeal and then tries to commit suicide in prison, John becomes determined to get her out of prison by any means necessary. Starting with the advice of Damon Pennington (Neeson), an author who wrote a book about his life as a prison escapee, and then learning the hard way, John formulates a daring plan to break Lara out of prison — one that could cost him everything.
Writing and Acting
John’s character — the protagonist — is well-developed. He becomes obsessed to the point of self-destructiveness about his plan to break his wife out of prison. Russell Crowe plays this intensity in a convincing manner.
Liam Neeson has a small, but integral, part as Damon Pennington. One of the best scenes in the movie is his meeting with John in a New York bar. This is what happens in a scene written for actors like Neeson and Crowe, given the right dialogue and storyline.
A side-note about an interesting supporting character here: The forger from whom John eventually buys fake IDs (after getting jumped by impostors) is Deaf. He is also significant in that he recognizes John’s intense overfocus on his mission and warns him about the dangers of this attitude — unwittingly echoing Damon’s advice to John (given earlier in the film). Kudos to Tyrone Giordano.
The action sequences were particularly good — for example, a scene in which Lara tries to jump out of a moving vehicle — but there’s nothing innovative about them.
The first scene, which begins at the end of the opening credits, causes some confusion for the viewer. What sounds like an automobile collision is heard as the credits are ending. John is then shown driving, with an apparently severely injured man in the back seat (who is heard but not seen). The next scene is Lara’s arrest. The viewer wonders whether she is being arrested for a crime that John committed. There is a significant stretch of runtime before the viewer learns what crime Lara has been charged with — so long that she has already been convicted by the time this information is provided. These editing choices may have been made with the intentions of creating a suspenseful opening and deliberately misleading the viewer, but there is no effort to pursue the possibility that Lara has been charged with a crime related to the opening driving scene involving John. Moreover, it is frankly annoying that it takes so long to learn the charges against Lara and for the alleged crime to be shown in a flashback sequence.
Until the third act, John (Crowe) drives a Toyota Prius. I am a Prius (not pious) owner, but I would never think to use a Prius to cruise for drug dealers or as a getaway vehicle for a robbery. It’s actually a challenge to TRY to get a speeding ticket in a Prius. Clearly Haggis was aware of this absurdity — he wrote a line about it for one of the film’s cop characters, something about Lara being a socially conscious murderer.
By Danny Elfman, the king of the Hollywood film music industry.
Film Facts (via IMDB):
- MPAA Rating: PG-13
- Runtime: 133 minutes
- Sound Mix: Dolby Digital, DTS, SDDS
- Color: Color
- Aspect Ratio 2.35 : 1