All the advertisements for this movie boasted some of the most vague campaigning I've ever seen for a film. All we gather after watching a two and a half minute long trailer for this movie is that it stars Russel Crowe and Liam Neeson and it's about a woman in jail. The ironic part is that one of those three tidbits isn't even true. Liam Neeson is a one-scene cameo and almost his entire performance is shown in the trailer. The Next Three Days is the thriller from Hollywood Sweetheart and Clint Eastwood's BFF, Paul Haggis. Haggis started off as a writer in Hollywood and has moved on to directing. He's given us Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters of Iwo Jima, and the two last James Bond movies. With the exception of Crash, all are fine films. (And yes, I mean that! Crash was terrible and I'll fight ya over it!) The Next Three Days will be put on Haggis' lame pile. The film is about a regular guy who has his wife go to prison for murder. He believes she's innocent so he plans to break her out. I'll give Haggis credit that it's more original than it seems. I couldn't remember a movie in the last decade or so that was about breaking someone out of prison; most are about someone trying to break themselves out and it's a very different story if you're outside the walls. From the very beginning though this film is off the tracks. Everything in it is glazed over like you're watching the Cliff's Notes version of a good movie. Crowe's wife is played by the gorgeous Elizabeth Banks (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, W.) is trying to prove that she's not just a pretty face that does comedy really well and deserves to be considered for more dramatic work. Besides those two main roles there are a slue of useless, underutilized characters that are played by pretty good actors; such as Olivia Wilde (Year One, Tron: Legacy), Brian Dennehy (Tommy Boy, Romeo + Juliet), RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), and Daniel Stern (City Slickers) just to name a few. They are shells of actual characters that have no backstory, no personality, no purpose and no fuel to keep the story going. That's not because they lack the screen time to make it work either because the same goes for Crowe and Banks. Everyone in this movie is replaceable with any character from any other thriller and it wouldn't change the story at all. And this is only half the problem; the other half is an excruciating first two acts. It's so slow and boring and doesn't seem to mind. There's no sense of an artful director at the helm that saw this iceberg coming and wanted to speed the ship up to get to the good part. And that really is the sad part; the last third of the movie is really good. The ending is exciting and suspenseful and deserves an audience, but I'm not sure who could stick around for it. The Next Three Days came across a lot like Crash to me; it's a movie that thought so highly of itself that it didn't want anyone to tell it how it could be improved. It was so sure it was a masterful movie that it didn't need a test screening or Hollywood dust-up. Shame too because it wouldn't have been a total wash because I'd tell them to keep the ending the way it is and reshoot everything else.
The Next Three Days (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C -