The Next Three Days

Russell Crowe stars in a terse, overly serious potboiler

The Next Three Days

(C) 2010 Lions Gate Films Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Director: Paul Haggis
Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson
Time Out rating:
Japanese title: Three Days

Fred Cavayé’s popular 2008 French prison-break melodrama Anything for Her becomes a terse, overly serious, character-driven potboiler in the hands of Paul Haggis, the writer-director of Crash and In the Valley of Elah. The plot – Russell Crowe’s browbeaten family man finds his life falling apart when his wife (Elizabeth Banks) is convicted of murder and decides to bust her out – promises high-stakes drama and high-octane action, so it’s a shame that it takes The Next Three Days well over an hour to get going. When it does, the film is gripping, intense and highly enjoyable. But it’s a long, tough slog to get there.

It doesn’t help that Haggis has chosen to set the film in the wintry industrial wasteland of Pittsburgh, restricting his palette to concrete grey and muddy brown. He reins in his actors to a frustrating degree: what should feel like tight-lipped realism comes off as merely half-hearted, leaving some early scenes – such as one in which Crowe meets multiple escapee Liam Neeson for coffee and deep research – feeling flat and perfunctory.

But in the third act, both Haggis and his actors kick it into high gear, leading to a breathless chase sequence, the outcome of which is unpredictable to the last moments. We know Haggis is a filmmaker who takes his craft terribly seriously. But in The Next Three Days, a sense of portentous joylessness cripples what could have been a satisfying genre thriller.

The Next Three Days opens nationwide on September 23

By Tom Huddleston
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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