Based on the obscure French film, Pour elle, of which I have never heard of, Paul Haggis’ The Next Three Days (which he both directed and wrote the screenplay for), stars the bankable Russell Crowe alongside the equally popular Elizabeth Banks as John and Lara Brennan, a married couple whose relationship takes a drastic turn for the worst when a small army of police detectives storm their household and arrest Lara for the murder of her boss, with whom Lara wasn’t on the best terms with. John is left with the responsibility of raising their young child, Luke (Ty Simpkins), who won’t even look Lara in the eyes, and an uncompromising belief that his wife is innocent.
Hell-bent on regaining her freedom, he has spends three years trying to repeal the decision, continuing to disregard his lawyer’s claim that, “Lara is not getting out.” Now instead of appealing for a Supreme Court case (his original plan), John decides to take things into his own hands by plotting a complicated escape. To aid him in this endeavor, he hires ex-con and seven-time escapee Damon Pennington, who he finds on the internet with minimal effort (turns out he wrote a book). “No prison is airtight,” Damon tells John, “[but] escaping is easy, the hard part is staying free.” From here, Damon elaborates by telling John that he has approximately 15 minutes to evade roadblocks and 35 to exit the city.
Armed with this useful know-how, John spends the next three months collecting intelligence, buying fake documents, learning how to use a firearm, and watching how-to videos. But things become complicated when Lara tells him that she’s being transferred from the county lockup to a maximum security prison in a mere three days (hence the title).
Rounding out the cast is Olivia Wilde, who plays Nicole, a single-mother who shows interest in John. This begs the question: What do women find so interesting about him?
But although The Next Three Days does have its fair share of beautiful women, it doesn’t have even pacing, as most of the film is dedicated to bland build-up. Another damning flaw is the film’s overall implausibility, which wouldn’t be as damaging if it weren’t for the simple coincidences that always work out in John’s favor.
Now make no mistake, I liked John, namely because he’s the antithesis to the stock action protagonist, by not being afraid to cry heartedly. And Crowe does lend a decent performance, as does the entire cast; however, there comes a point where his luck serves as compensation for his lack of machismo. This makes him nearly indestructible, which ruins that human touch that is required of any character.
Admittedly, it takes a while for the escape to commence, but when it does, The Next Three Days becomes extremely entertaining. It’s just a shame that it often feels like days have passed before this actually happens.