On date night, bourgie Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) picks a fight with her boss and conscripts husband John (Russell Crowe) into parking-lot coitus. The next morning she’s arrested for murder.
John, a community-college professor apparently specializing in Conveniently Appropriate to the Plot English Lit, is unwilling or unable to accept that he may have married a psychopath. So he decides to do the most responsible thing for his young son: bust his wife out of prison.
A remake of the French thriller Pour Elle, The Next Three Days is nuts—rather, it’s alternately tedious, idiotic and nuts. Director Paul Haggis is a man defined/imprisoned by Crash , making it easy to forget he has a deep history in trash. (He’s credited with penning 196 episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger; on the less-shameful side, he helped re-boot Bond.)
Material as baldly genre as this requires a rush of energy so we can overlook the inanity, which he belatedly achieves with an admittedly enjoyable finale. Yet much of Days, particularly the protracted setup, plays like he’s still helming the Iraq War weepie In the Valley of Elah. The volleys for profundity clash amusingly with John’s mission, many of the details of which could be charitably described as knuckle-scrapingly moronic. Scouring the net for crime tips (Google search: “how to break into a car”), John purchases a pistol and asks where the bullets go; later he figures ripping off drug dealers would be safer and easier than robbing a bank.
So that covers the tedious and the stupid—the nuts is John, who remains intent on freeing his spouse even after she all but confesses to the crime. “Rational thought destroys your soul,” he rhapsodies in voiceover, right before stating outright that he’s chosen to be insane. Played by Crowe as a blank slate—gentle, slack-jawed and borderline Asperger’s—he’s a fascinating obsessive, whose goal trumps morality and logic. And if the movie containing him were better-made or didn’t utterly puss out in its final minutes, that might have been enough to excuse its many deficiencies.
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