The Next Three Days is as brutally boring as any film you are likely to see this year. If you manage to stay awake through the laborious first hour and a half, you will be richly rewarded by a scant two minute action set piece that takes place on a highway. That’s it. That’s the highlight of the film.
To be fair, the last twenty minutes or so are decent, but you will be so annoyed with the preceding 100 minutes that it won’t change your mind about the movie. You’ll just be glad that the movie bothers to throws you a bone, no matter how meager. I can’t recall an action movie that has ever taken this long to actually show a little action.
Russell Crowe plays a college professor, John, who is just as bland as his name would lead you to believe. He is married to Lara (Elizabeth Banks), a feisty blonde, and the two have a young son.
The morning after they have gone out to dinner on the town, their calm morning routine is shattered by the arrival of police, brandishing a warrant for Lara’s arrest on suspicion of murder.
Despite the fact that all the evidence is circumstantial, Lara is thrown into prison. She doesn’t adapt well to the surroundings, to say the least, and after she loses her final appeal, she opts to kill herself rather than spend her life in prison.
She fails at her suicide attempt, but the incident forces John to come to grips with the fact that his wife will not last long in prison. He is thoroughly convinced of her innocence, and believes that the justice system has failed them. His only recourse is to break her out of prison.
For the next several months, John gallantly googles his heart out, learning how to commit criminal acts by watching helpful “how to” videos on YouTube and the like. Soon he is slithering in and out of prison transportation vehicles and falsifying his wife’s medical charts. Thankfully, she was blessed with a medical condition (diabetes) that can be manipulated to facilitate a breakout.
Then John’s world is once more turned upside down when he finds out that Lara will be transferred to a different prison in three days (hence the title), so it is do or die time.
This is when the film truly veers off the tracks into absurdity. Not only is it ridiculous, but the protagonists earned my disdain by making incredibly dumb choices regarding their son. They are fugitives, and have been told that they will be shot on sight. So naturally they go scoop up their six year old son and make sure he is front and center in Johnny Law’s crosshairs as well.
No parent who loved their child would endanger them so. Selfish bastards. So not only did I find the entire prison break unbelievable, but I didn’t buy the character motivations either.
If there is one good thing to say about the film, it is that it is well acted. Russell Crowe seems to be phoning it in a bit, but still puts in a better performance than most actors would. He does need to start saying “no” to the second bowl of pasta, though, or his days of playing the hot guy are gone.
I was very curious to see how Banks handled a more dramatic role. I’ve enjoyed her in comedic roles, but she did okay here as well. The first fifteen minutes or so were quite gripping, thanks to her convincing job. Liam Neeson has a short and sweet scene as an ex-felon with inside knowledge of how to break out of prison. Olivia Wilde is underutilized and really served no purpose beyond being the requisite eye candy.
Look, we have to suspend our belief during 90% of the films we see. It’s all make-believe, after all, and I don’t have a problem with that. However, if you are just going to go balls to the walls absurd, you better make damn sure that your film is a blast. The Next Three Days is anything but.