Forced intuition – I’m all about directors taking something that has been done before and recreating it in their own vision, but some stories should really be left alone in the original state they were derived from. I think writer/director Paul Haggis was in love with the 2007 French film, “Pour Elle,” so much that he failed to think everything through prior to making his own remake, to which he callously dubbed “The Next Three Days.” The result was decent, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a film I would ever think was attached to the brilliant mind of Paul Haggis.

 What’s it about?  In what appeared to be a normal morning for Lara (Elizabeth Banks), John (Russell Crowe) and their son Luke (Ty Simpkins), the day turned sour when the police knocked on the door and began arresting Lara for the murder of one of her co-workers. Confident his wife didn’t do this, John promised Lara he would do everything possible to get her name cleared. But, that would be no easy task the deeper John dug into the evidence within the case, which was about as solid as it gets for a murder case. Upon realizing this, John enlisted the help of Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), a toughened criminal who had escaped prison seven times.  Clearly an expert who has seen everything, Damon tells John that escaping is the easy part and that the key would be how he manages to stay free without getting caught; being resourceful and “letting go” at a moment’s notice. So, John began to map out his plan, going to extremes that any ordinary community college professor would never dream of going as he was forced to rely on a variety of unstable forces ultimately leading to an unlikely, yet witty conclusion.

Wasted talent?  Many will look at this film and think it’s just another ‘every-day’ thriller starring a big name like Russell Crowe.  The reality is, it only cost Lionsgate $35 million to make this film, which is a bargain given the talent on board. I mean, just between Russell Crowe and director Paul Haggis, they have eight Academy Award nominations with three wins. That’s quite a resume for any film, much less one this small in caliber, especially when you also throw in a cameo by Liam Neeson.  So, needless to say, when I read about this film, I was excited for the endless potential it would hold. And at least from an acting standpoint I was right, thanks to another great performance by Crowe.   For this type of role, Crowe was ideal, as he can play the emotion so easily one way, yet all the while act like he is struggling with it. That’s a unique skill that not too many actors have and one Crowe has mastered over the years. Essentially he was totally out of character, but in-character, which in the end was exactly why he was the right guy for this film and why it’s even worth seeing. 

Limited effort – Too often we get caught up in trying to relive the past, when frankly, it’s all behind us now. I’m not saying “The Next Three Days” should not have been made, I just think a little more effort around the pace and directing would have gone a long way. This is a great story to tell and one many people wouldn’t think they will like, but will love the longer they watch the story unfold,. And writer/director Paul Haggis did a great job adapting it, but I just wish he would have gotten to the point quicker with how he filmed and sequenced the key moments within this dynamic story. And who knows, maybe had Haggis not directed it, I would feel differently, as a more seasoned director would have made this film ‘pop’ more.  Haggis was too safe with how he directed this film, prolonging the overall emotion over the course of the story which made the pace longer than it needed to be. Cut out 20 minutes, add in a few more gripping action sequence, some more intrigue and this would be a thriller people would go watch and not stop talking about.

Bottom Line – It’s no secret “The Next Three Days’ is a film many people will never even know existed until it shows up at their local redbox or online at Netflix.com. That’s the cruel reality that faces any film released alongside a juggernaut like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.” Now, that doesn’t mean it’s still not worth seeing, which this film is; it just means it’s better served on DVD when there’s nothing better showing at the box office.

C+

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