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The Next Three Days

A movie Starring Russell Crowe and directed by Paul Haggis

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In a film set in Pittsburgh, whose name I do not wish to recall*

  • Dec 3, 2010
Is it too much to hope that, when a studio has the wherewithal - and budget - to pull together such cinematic luminaries as Russell Crowe, Brian Dennehy and Liam Neeson, that it won't insult its audience's intelligence with the result? Once upon a time, Hollywood threw its big name stars challenging roles, and they produced erudite, artful, memorable and, well, *thrilling* thrillers, like The Silence of the Lambs, L.A. Confidential or Memento. No longer, apparently. Nowadays the best you'll get is lightweight fluff like Knight and Day, and formulaic rubbish like Three Days Left - or whatever this film was called: I am honestly already having trouble remembering. My wife and I sat in a bar afterwards and tried to look on the bright side just to think of something nice to say. At least it wasn't in 3D.

This film assembles a (mostly) talented, but (altogether) wasted, big name cast, including one of my favourite, underrated, actors of all time: Brian Dennehy. But Dennehy was so starved of script I wondered at one point whether the actor (now in his seventies) had suffered a stroke and was unable to speak. Joy of joys, eventually he did, briefly, and managed in a couple of stares to generate more acting quality than the rest of the cast put together. Liam Neeson played some sort of escape artist ex-con with a comedy Bronx accent, a Hemingway cap and a preposterous scar across his cheek: he may as well have had a parrot on his shoulder and a wooden leg for the sense his character made (although then he would be less able to ride the motorcycle which the scriptwriters had bestowed on him). Russell Crowe - an actor who has fashioned a career from being a moody, sexy, hard bastard - plays John Brennan, an overweight, credulous and downright wet schoolteacher whose wife is subject to a horrendous miscarriage of justice.

Except - and it pains me to admit I'm legally qualified, but I am - I don't think it *was* a miscarriage of justice. More importantly, Brennan is given no cause throughout the film, save guileless and gullible belief in the blamelessness of his wife, to think so either. And nor does director Andrew Haggis invest any time in ensuring we are sympathetic to Laura Brennan's cause. Haggis' pedigree is James Bond screenwriting, so I don't suppose he has ever needed to bother establishing his hero, but here the film was lost within the first ten minutes when, in the course of a single petulant exchange, we are introduced to, and invited to immediately dislike, Laura Brennan, a fractious, humourless woman in a blonde wig who is easily baited by her sister-in-law. The fact that Laura lovingly shags her husband in the car afterwards and insists on taking a photo of their nuclear family every day doesn't substitute for decent emotional investment. We actively dislike Laura, and little of her behaviour afterwards does anything to change this. Even her son patently dislikes her.

From this unpromising tableau we are led onto John Brennan's thoroughly implausible journey from wet English teacher lecturing on Don Quixote (which would have been funny and clever if Brennan hadn't misrepresented a farce as tragedy) to criminal mastermind, springing his irritating wife from maximum security clink towards a South American lam. This involves preparation: is convention dictates, Brennan duly erects a wall map of his plan: a map of Pittsburgh, photos of security vans, lines joining up all the dots (you know the drill), including, unfathomably, scrawling a budget for the heist on the map, and useful reminders "GET A FALSE MOUSTACHE" etc. "AND HAT". Brennan assembles a cast of low life characters (including Neeson and a lip-reading deaf chap, also on a motorbike) to help him execute his plan. Oh, and YouTube, of course, which will tell you how to pick prison locks and open security vans armed only with an old tennis ball.

All this to save a highly strung and glacial wife who can't even maintain the affection of her mop-headed son, and who shows no gratitude for her husband's loyalty, no matter how misplaced or, er, quixotic. During his preparation John Brennan encounters a lonesome single mum who inveigles him with come-hither looks, but showing the resolve of a rather deluded saint, merely uses her to effect his plan.

You won't be surprised to hear that cuddly schoolteacher makes a better fist of his ludicrous plan than logic would dictate he ought. The last part of the film descends into a frenetic chase across beautiful Pittsburgh (talk about quixotic: Haggis attempts some scene setting shots intended to make Pittsburgh look picturesque), and as convention dictates, the police are by turns brilliant to the point of clairvoyance when tracking and nearly catching him, but moronic beyond belief in the last five yards when apprehension is finally at hand. Not that I wasn't rooting for the hapless cops: wouldn't it be a lovely turn of events if, just once, the perpetually doomed coppers actually got their man?

I seem to say this a lot of films, and it depresses me to have to: check your brain at the door, and the two hours will pass quickly enough. But killing time is hardly enough reason to part with a tenner and sit in a dark room.

For once, wouldn't it be nice to take your brain in with you to the cinema?

Olly Buxton

(*With apologies to Cervantes)

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December 22, 2010
This was one of those movies that I liked (not by much) despite its many flaws. I liked the French original a lot better though.
More The Next Three Days (2010) reviews
review by . November 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
3 ½ Stars: How Far Would You Go To Keep Your Family Together?
Remakes. Seems like Hollywood is at it again. After all the major publicity and promos that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” had packed in, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to think that a remake would not be able to compete (let alone be noticed) with an expected money-maker such as that successful  franchise. Ok, I know that doesn’t have anything to do with director Paul Haggis’ “The Next Three Days” besides their release dates but I had to …
review by . February 26, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
All hell breaks loose!
What part of our lives is truly under our control? And herein lies the story of a man trying to keep things in control in his life. He attempts to keep his family intact by trying to rescue his wife from imprisonment for a crime she didn’t commit!      The key to escape. Escaping is easy, according to a past convict. The hardest part of thing is to leave…  ask yourself, IF you can do it. What entails doing it is to lose one’s identity and all that you’ve …
review by . March 16, 2011
This got totally eclipsed at the box office by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1, and for obvious reasons. This also got fairly mixed reviews from critics and I can definitely see why. The Next Three Days isn't heinous or terrible or anything, but its not spectacular by any means and is just plain forgettable. I was never really much of a Russell Crowe fan myself, and I still am rather indifferent towards him, but I can't deny that he is good in this movie, along with Elizabeth …
review by . May 20, 2011
Two themes play out in this film
Two themes play out in this film: a Don Quixote unrealistic quest and fate. A man is totally oblivious to the fact that evidence proves that his wife killed a woman; she was convicted at trial, and lost her appeals. He is in love with her and determined to find a way to break her out of jail. As with the unrealistic Don Quixote, he gets into one problem after another, including being beat up and not having enough cash to carry out his plan. He resorts to robbery. His plan is perfect, but fate intervenes. …
review by . March 30, 2011
Too Slow, Then Too Naive
What this film needs: 1. Decent secondary characters to make the first two acts more interesting.  The roles are there (Olivia Wilde as a neighbor, Brian Denehy as Crowe’s father) but they’re just that – roles.  No meat on the bones. 2. Tommy Lee Jones in “The Fugitive.”   A decent cop antagonist would do WONDERS for this film.  And hey, while he’s trying to foil Crowe’s plan, he could actually tie up the loose ends of whether or not …
Quick Tip by . December 11, 2010
Anyone interested in a little further insight into this pretty decent Paul Haggis film, should check out my interview with the director himself ... http://blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/2010/1...rviews-paul-haggis.html
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Olly Buxton ()
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Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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About this movie


A woman is accused of murder. This affects the relationship between her and her husband. Her husband, a professor, takes extreme actions in an attempt to free her from prison.
The Next Three Days is a remake of the 2007 French film Pour Elle (Anything for Her) by Fred Cavayé. The plot of Pour Elle involved a teacher Julien (Vincent Lindon) who experienced difficulties when his wife (Diane Kruger) became a suspect in a murder investigation and was arrested. Julien does not believe that his wife is guilty of the crime, and attempts to remove her from the prison.
Pour Elle was Cavayé's directing debut. The film was one of the main attractions of the Alliance Française French Film Festival in 2010. Cavayé explained the plot and motivation for making the film, "We wanted to make a real human story about an ordinary man doing an extraordinary thing because he's faced with a miscarriage of justice. The film also talks about courage - saying how you show courage depending on the situation. In France, for example, there were good people who did not go into the Resistance against the Germans."
Cavayé told The Age regarding the remake of the film by Haggis, he is eager "To be a spectator of my own film". The director commented on the news his film would be remade by Haggis, "It's a strange feeling. I wrote this story in my very small apartment in Paris. When I saw my name next to Russell Crowe ...
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Director: Paul Haggis
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: November 19, 2010
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Screen Writer: Paul Haggis
Runtime: 122 minutes
Studio: Lionsgate
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