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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » December 30, 2010
Film Review
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The Next Three Days
December 30, 2010   
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The quiet life of John Brennan (Russell Crowe—Gladiator, The Insider, A Beautiful Mind), an English and literature teacher in a public high school in Pittsburgh, turns upside down in an instant when one morning, a police squad knocks on his door waving an arrest warrant for his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks—W., Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Spider-Man series). She is charged with the murder of her boss, whom she apparently bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. The evidence seems irrefutable, with Lara’s fingerprints on the murder weapon and the victim’s blood on Lara’s coat. A witness saw Lara running out of the parking lot where the body was found a minute later. Lara even had a motive, as on the day of the murder she had an argument with her boss, who publicly threw insults at her. It all adds up to a life sentence, with parole possible in 20 years at the earliest.

A three-year legal battle leads to a dead end when the Brennans’ appeal is rejected. John is convinced of his wife’s innocence but loses all hope of ever getting Lara back. He regularly visits her in prison, living his life as a single parent raising their depressed, 6-year-old son Luke.

When Lara learns about the rejected appeal, she slits her wrists in a suicide attempt. John, in despair, resolves to get his beloved wife out of jail, whatever it takes. He starts collecting data on escapes from maximum-security prisons and even meets with Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson—Schindler’s List, Batman Begins, Star Wars series), a former criminal who managed to escape from prison seven times and then wrote a best-selling book about his exploits. Slowly, patiently and painstakingly, John analyzes different escape methods and concocts a meticulous plan. He remembers what Pennington told him: escape is one thing, but the trick is not to get caught afterwards, and so as soon as possible John will need to get to a faraway country with which the United States does not have an extradition treaty.

The movie, directed by Paul Haggis (Crash, In the Valley of Elah), is a remake of a French action thriller from 2008. The Next Three Days could be a solid action movie if it were shorter. Some 20 percent of its 122 minutes could have been easily left on the cutting room floor, to the benefit of the viewer, as even dynamic car chases seem to go on forever.

The next problem with the movie is the hardly compelling main character. The transformation of a smiling, witty and composed teacher into a James-Bond-meets-Death-Wish vigilante badly lacks credibility. Of course, audiences are well familiar with Crowe the warrior—in his roles as Maximus, Robin Hood or Capt. Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World—as well as with Crowe playing misfits such as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider or John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. But this time he gets to play a mix of those when he gets badly beaten up by thugs in an alley only to raid a drug dealer’s house with a gun in his hand a while later.

One final note, American law enforcement services and border guards come across as near caricatures in the movie. The three fugitives make it through so many traps and checkpoints unbothered that you are led to believe that some basic research online is enough to outwit officials who have the resources of a global superpower at their fingertips.

Witold Żygulski
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