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Submitted by on November 18, 2010 – 12:57 am 17 Comments

A movie that’s opening against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 had better have the muscle and legs to stand up to it. It probably wouldn’t hurt to also have some magic dust thrown in to help its chances at the box office. The Next Three Days (opening Nov. 19) doesn’t have all those ingredients, but it is a smart if overly long crime drama and it has Russell Crowe.

Adapted from the French film Pour Elle (Anything for Her), Days tells the story of John (Crowe) and Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks), an idyllic couple with a cute young son and a nice house in the suburbs. One day, the cops burst in and arrest Lara for the murder of her boss, something she maintains she didn’t do despite damning evidence. For the next three years, every legal channel is explored and every appeal denied. John then decides without Lara’s knowledge that the only solution is to break her out.

He consults with an ex-con who’s escaped from prison several times (Liam Neeson), he searches for security weaknesses, and does shady things to raise cash for fake IDs for them to start over afterward. There are dozens of ways the plan can go wrong, making us wonder if the mild-mannered teacher has what it takes to pull off the great escape.

As with writer/director Paul Haggis’s other movies (Crash, In the Valley of Elah), the script is intelligent but almost indulgently so. Haggis has a lot to say and says it well, but then he keeps saying it instead of moving on. It’s interesting to watch John’s thought process as he plans the prison break but the movie starts to drag as Haggis spends time on every little detail of John’s strategy. I get that he needs to proceed carefully and not rush into a suicide mission, but I also didn’t want the planning phase of the movie to last three days in real time. Once the main event does arrive, Days kicks into hyperdrive and becomes a thrilling ride which includes a gasp-inducing stunt between an SUV and a semi truck.

Crowe’s performance is sturdy but isn’t that stating the obvious? When does this man ever do crappy work? He makes a believable transition from Average Joe to a hard man pushed to desperate measures. Banks continues to show she can move effortlessly between comedy and drama. She gives Lara a convincing steeliness as she spends more time in prison, her future looking bleaker every day. And her hair may be drab and her face devoid of makeup but the actress still looks beautiful.

Lots of strong actors make up the supporting cast but they get to do very little. Olivia Wilde shows up as a mom who kinda digs John after meeting him on the playground with their respective kids. Brian Dennehy plays John’s dad but spoke only five times. Neeson has only one scene, though his character helps John get the whole ball rolling. Haggis seems to want to stuff every good thing he can find into his movies when a stricter editing hand might have been the better plan to follow.

Nerd verdict: Days sags in middle but finishes strong

Photos: Phil Caruso



  • le0pard13 says:

    I’m very interested in this film for many of the aspects you detail in your fine review, Elyse. If I can’t get into an IMAX showing for HP, I’ll be here. Thanks.

  • EIREGO says:

    I’m gonna hit the midnight showing of HP tonight!

    I saw the original film Pour Elle and, as always is the case, became really irritated when I heard they were going to remake it here. I wasn’t aware it was coming out this weekend because…well, HP WILL RULE THE WEEKEND!! Once I come down from Potter euphoria, I might check it out. It also sounds like the perfect place for Harry-hating adults to sneak into while the rest of us don our Hogwarts apparel.

  • Poncho says:

    I want to see this film. Had heard about it a while ago and, though, I havent seen the french original -yet-, I got really interested.

    Thankfully, this one won’t battle Potter in ticket sales ‘ere -at least not that I’m aware of.

  • Paulette Feeney says:

    Great, as usual, review. Thanks, Elyse! I am looking forward to this movie. Several of my students informed me that I should not expect them to be productive in class tomorrow as they are attending the midnight showing of HP! My response was less than symathetic! However, my lesson plan for tomorrow is not terribly strenuous so I believe they will fare quite well.

  • Pop Culture Nerd says:

    EIREGO—Have fun at the midnight screening! I have to wait until tomorrow noon. How will I sleep tonight?

    Poncho—I don’t think this will be able to compete with HP at all in ticket sales. I’m kinda surprised the studio decided to open it on the same weekend. Even if it’s not the same target audience, adults will be taking their kids to HP.

    Paulette—It’s nice of your students to give you a heads-up.

  • Sounds good to me, PCN. I’ll feel safe drinking as much water as I want to, comforted in the knowledge that I can slip out for a quick break during the ‘planning phase’ and only miss out on some of the extraneous detail.

  • Jen Forbus says:

    Well you already know I’m a Russell Crowe junkie! I’d say I’m his biggest fan, but I fear you might challenge me to an arm wrestle or something over that title!

    I thought the exact same thing about CRASH; that was probably the major reason I thought CAPOTE deserved the Oscar that year. Anyway…I will definitely see this one. Not sure if I’ll make it to the theater. I actually can’t remember the last time I went to the theater now…I’m getting pretty pathetic. But I’ll borrow it from the library when it’s out on DVD if nothing else.

  • Christine says:

    I watched the trailer you had posted previously on this site. [Thank you very much for that, by the way. So many movies I hadn’t the slightest clue were coming!] Other than Russell Crowe, it just had no appeal for me. Boring, really. But upon reading your review, I’ll give a watch when it makes to On Demand.

    How about HOUSE’s Olivia Wilde spreading her wings in moviedom? Let’s see, she’s in this one, the TRON movie and in COWBOYS and ALIENS (trailer seen courtesy of lp13, thank you very much.) Being such a fan of HOUSE as Brian and I are, I feel like I can say, “I knew her when…” Ha!

    Great review, Elyse. Thanks.

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