|as a serviceable thriller that adds Hollywood conventions to its French-language predecessor
|Russell Crowe, Brian Dennehy, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, RZA, Ty Simpkins
|5th January 2011
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
John (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Elizabeth Banks) have the perfect marriage, the perfect home, the perfect son, Luke (Ty Simpkins). What more could you ask for?
One morning, during the daily routine they’ve done thousands of times before, their perfect family life is shattered. On her way out of the door, Lara stops to wash a red spot off her coat collar – and police burst through the front door and arrest her for murder.
Before long, the bars clink behind her as she’s jailed for life. John is the only person in the world who believes she’s innocent, and is prepared to do “anything for her” (the title of the 2009 French film this is based on).
When all her appeals fail, he realises that the only way to get her out is to break her out.
Using his own initiative, the advice of ex con Damon (Liam Neeson) and the unwitting assistance of neighbourhood single mum Nicole (Olivia Wilde), John sets about helping Lara escape.
His plan brings the everyman into contact with drug dealers and ID fraudsters and it’s not long before the cops are on his tail. His failed relationship with his parents doesn’t help.
Just as things are finally coming together, John discovers that the authorities are planning to move her to another jail in just three days’ time…
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
It’s always odd trying to take a critical eye to a film which is pretty much a straight lift from a foreign film, translated into English.
Whether it’s the Ring, Let Me In or this, sometimes the titles change – sometimes they don’t – but one thing that doesn’t change is the story, or at least the bulk of it.
Consequently, what worked well about the French film Pour Elle (English title: Anything For Her) works well here too – the original idea that rather than trying to prove his wife’s innocence, as would be the case in any comparable film, our protagonist gives up on the legal process and just tries to break her out of prison. But this isn’t something Paul Haggis should be praised for.
By extension, the areas where this film didn’t work so well were largely areas where the Haggis actively digressed from the original. In Pour Elle, as viewers, we had more faith in Diane Kruger than we have here in Elizabeth Banks, largely due to a deliberately misleading flashback employed this time. Here, although innocence or guilt is irrelevant to the motivation of the lonely hard-done-by husband, believing that she might be guilty actually makes us less sympathetic to Crowe’s efforts.
Crowe’s planned escape route is far more complicated than that employed by Vincent Lindon in the original, which admittedly adds more excitement to the tail end of the film, but it does make it feel rather more like standard Hollywood fare than its European provenance would merit – and adds half an hour to the running time.
Perhaps the oddest element of this film is the casting of Brian Dennehy as Crowe’s father. It’s almost inconceivable that any casting director should think it a good idea to give a star of such screen presence and gravity a role where apart from his final scene, in which he has four brief lines, every time he appears on screen he does nothing more than scowl, grunt or harrumph.
As such reviews often conclude, for anyone who hasn’t seen the French original, this is a perfectly serviceable thriller with an interesting twist, not in its denouement but its premise, which itself is refreshing. Russell Crowe delivers a typically determined and sympathetic performance. But as a film in its own right, the Next Three Days fails to pack the punch of its predecessor, taking its original idea and turning it into a typical big-budget action film.