Friday, November 26, 2010

THE NEXT THREE DAYS - Desperate Hubby Saga

Cast: Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Jonathan Tucker, Brian Dennehy, RZA, Lennie James, Jason Beghe and Moran Atias
Director: Paul Haggis
Script: Paul Haggis, based on screenplay of Pour Elle by Fred CavayƩ and Guillaume Lemans
Time: 122 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: The Next Three Days is director Paul Haggis' remake of the 2008 French film Pour Elle (Anything For Her), giving a typical American slant to the plot. For one who gave us Crash and In The Valley of Elah, this effort seems redundant, but for the performances of Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks (pictured).

Crowe is comfortable in a role he is so familiar with - that of an ordinary man who must rise to the occasion when faced with huge odds. If anyone can make a preposterous enterprise look doable, he can.

THE SKINNY: John and Lara Brennan (Crowe and Banks) are a Pittsburgh couple with a young son (Ty Simpkins). When the movie begins 'Three Years Ago', we see them having dinner one night and waking up to find their world a living hell when the police burst into their house and arrest Lara for murder the next morning.

John knows his wife could not have committed the crime and of course they fight out the case in court. However, the evidence is compelling and Lara loses the case. After exhausting all hopes of appeal, John learns that Lara will be transferred to the state penitentiary in three days. For him, this means he has to break his wife out of jail before she is moved.

HITS AND MISSES: After about an hour of learning about John's character - as a normal English teacher and a desperate husband - doubts about his plans and methods dissolve quickly. Hey, that's Russell Crowe up there and he is the embodiment of determination and guts. The big deal for Haggis is to keep us in suspense as to the culpability of Lara. Did she, or did she not, do it? And is John labouring under a delusion?

Plot development, especially in the first half, can be rather slow, especially for the average action fan, but this is alleviated by a tensed shootout involving some drug dealers. It also helps to have Brian Dennehy playing John's estranged father, and Liam Neeson as a prison break-out veteran with whom John consults for pointers. Banks is effective, especially in the way she transforms from suburban wife and mother to a hardened prisoner who has given up hope. Olivia Wilde, of TV's House, aptly plays a sympathetic mom who befriends John and his son Luke.

THE LOWDOWN: It's not one of Crowe's best, but credible.


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