The Next Three Days Review

It’s a pretty solid concept for a film: a woman is accused of murder, in spite of her protests of innocence is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Having exhausted all possible appeals, her distraught and loving husband decides that rather than wait twenty years for her release, he’ll take matters into his own hands and spring her from chokey.

The Next Three Days could have been a great film. It certainly had every chance to be a good film, and yet it’s a badly thought through, depressing mess.

The key to making a film like this work is to make the characters likeable. Unfortunately they seem to be written to be utterly unpleasant. Within minutes of our introduction to Elizabeth Banks’ Lara Brennan, it’s clear that she’s a bit of a bitch. While she gets on with her husband (Crowe), she’s downright spiteful to her sister in-law, and indeed anyone who has the temerity to disagree with her.

It seems that the film makers were trying to give her some depth, and keep us guessing as to whether she really was a killer until the end, but it also makes her impossible to like. She’s barely even tolerable. Crowe’s character isn’t much better. While he isn’t as viscous as his wife, he’s an absolute wet weekend, who mopes around pining for his murderous wife, at the expense of the welfare of his son.

With characters as difficult to like as this pair, it would make sense to cast some really likeable lead actors; maybe a pretty, but talented ingénue in the female role, and a charming guy as her male counterpart. Instead we have to suffer two hours of charisma-vacuum Russell Crowe, playing against a woman who, on her good days, comes across as the sort of person who hurls kittens from bridges for some twisted interpretation of fun.

This gives the film a similar feeling as going to an air show or motor race – sitting through the damned thing bored senseless, on the vague off chance that someone might die. Indeed, by the time Russell Crowe got to breaking Banks from Prison, I was practically preying a guard would shoot one, or both of the hateful pair. Unfortunately, being a Hollywood flick, we know they’re going to get away, and so any sense of suspense or anticipation is checked out as soon as we walk through the cinema doors.

Quite aside from how unwatchable the two leads are, we have to contend with a nonsensical script, that has motivations, morals and emotions of the characters change on a sixpence, seemingly to suit the requirements of a plot written by someone with no comprehension of storytelling. Instead, we have Banks turn from loving wife to aggressive bully because it makes the story more ‘tense’. Similarly, at one point (by far the film’s worst) she opens the door to a moving car in the worst suicide attempt in the history of both cinema, and the world in general.

There are some redeeming features. Yet again, in a bad movie, Olivia Wilde stands out as the best thing by an enormous margin. Beautiful, fragile, charming, yet strong, had she been cast in Banks’ role, it’s safe to say this review would have been entirely different. Sadly, and despite the marketing campaign that tries to benefit from her theft of Tron: Legacy, she barely appears in the film.

In the limited time we do spend with her, almost every scene is shared with Russell Tedium, who sucks any life out of the room. Her ability in this film to carry a scene against a man who would be a fair candidate for least charismatic creature on earth is a testament to just how good Wilde is. In about six months time she’ll be in a film that isn’t dreadful. At this point, she’ll be the hottest actress on the planet.

The film also introduces a supporting character who is deaf. The fact that they chose to do this in a way that neither impacts upon the story, nor portrays the character in anything other than a neutral light is a bold decision worthy of praise. In spite of making a movie that is overwhelmingly tedious, and will hopefully disappear into The Vortex Of Crap Films, Haggis has created one of the most well realised disabled characters in the history of cinema.

Unfortunately he’s also created an dreadful film. There are many worse movies, indeed even in the last month we’ve suffered through Tron:Legacy, Fred and myriad other crap, but criticism shouldn’t have to be relative. In spite of being much better than much of the rubbish we’re subjected to on a weekly basis, The Next Three Days is a bad film, and one that should be actively avoided.

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