The Next Three Days


Russell Crowe as John Brennan
Elizabeth Banks as Laura
Olivia Wilde as Nicole
Liam Neeson as Damon
Ty Simpkins as Luke
Lennie James as Lt. Nabulsi
Kevin Corrigan as Alex
RZA as Mouss
Jonathan Tucker as David
Moran Atias as Erit
Jason Beghe as Detective Quinn
Nazanin Boniadi as Elaine
Tyrone Giordano as Mike
Helen Carey as Grace Brennan
Michael Buie as Mick Brennan
Remy Nozik as Jenna
Allan Steele as Sgt. Harris
Kaitlyn Wylde as Julie
Peyton Grace Allen as Carrie
Denise Dal Vera as Eugenie
Rachel Deacon as Cherie

Directed by Paul Haggis

Three years after his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is convicted and jailed for murder, schoolteacher John Brennan (Russell Crowe) plots a way to get her out of the Allegheny County Jail.

It’s really a shame that “The Next Three Days” is another solid Russell Crowe film that’s likely to get lost in the shuffle for not being a conventional Hollywood movie trying hard to make itself look like one. Paul Haggis’ third movie certainly is very different from what we’ve seen from him before but trying to make it look like an action movie is just one of the many reasons why it doesn’t feel it may connect with the audience that might appreciate it for what it is – a character-driven thriller that offers all the unexpected plot twists you might hope for.

What most aren’t likely to know is that this is a remake of a French thriller called “Pour Elle,” a film that barely got a release in the States and will therefore be relatively unknown, but Haggis easily slots the story into the industrial Pittsburgh environment. It’s here that we meet John and Lara Brennan, a happy couple with a young son whose lives are torn apart when she’s convicted of murdering her overbearing female boss. We’re eased into this situation with a dinner discussion between the Brennans and friends about male vs. female bosses, but minutes later, police are breaking down their front door and taking Lara away. After three years, John is struggling to survive as a single parent, and still believing that his wife is innocent, he begins plotting an elaborate plan to free her.

A movie like this could have easily been handled as a mundane character-driven crime-drama, but where Betty Anne Waters went through an 18-year ordeal to get a law degree in order to free her brother, Crowe’s John Brennan takes a more direct approach: “My wife is innocent, so I’m going to get her free.” This is what makes the film interesting in that it starts as a character drama but then turns into quite a riveting prison breakout movie, one that’s handled in a clever and intelligent way, rather than as a genre film. Despite a number of faster-paced moments, it certainly wouldn’t be considered an “action movie” by the definition of the genre, but it’s fascinating to watch the clever ways Brennan hatches his wife’s escape plan without her even realizing it.

There’s little denying that Russell Crowe continues to be one of the finest actors working, and he brings the same level of gravitas to this role as any other, while making you really feel for him as a father and a husband. Throughout the film, you really believe he would indeed go to the lengths that he does to save his wife. There are very other actors who could maintain the viewer’s interest while being in every single scene. An even bigger surprise is seeing Elizabeth Banks playing a dramatic role and carrying her own in the scenes they have together, which are as strong dramatically as any straight drama.

Liam Neeson has a tiny cameo as a man who escaped from prison and wrote a book about it, essentially a consultant giving John advice on how to plan the escape. It’s a great scene, which is why it’s featured so prominently in the trailer, but anyone seeing this movie specifically for Neeson will be disappointed. The rest of the supporting cast isn’t bad, including Lennie James as the detective investigating the murder case and Kevin Corrigan as a drugdealer who John robs in order to fund his endeavor. The lovely Olivia Wilde seems somewhat wasted as the mother of one of John’s son’s friends and if you blink, you’ll miss rapper RZA in a similarly tiny role as Todd Phillips’ “Due Date.”

The film’s erratic pace is one of its biggest hindrances, because anyone expecting the fast pace being advertised to be the status quo may be dismayed when the film slows down for the dialogue-driven moments which are so important for us to understand the character’s motivations. Even so, there are some well-directed action scenes throughout, particularly an impressive highway chase sequence in the last act.

Even so, it’s hard to ignore Haggis’ weak attempt at throwing a few last-minute twists into the mix by showing the detectives reinvestigating the crime scene three years after Lara was already convicted. There were plenty of better places Haggis could have ended the movie and this unnecessary epilogue greatly takes away from what’s come before.

The Bottom Line:
A fairly ambitious effort from Paul Haggis that shows he’s more than capable of branching out and bringing something unique to a tried-and-true genre like the prison breakout thriller. Despite prominent pacing problems and an ending that goes on for too long, “The Three Next Days” works well as a character piece due to the solid performances by his cast.