FlixChatter Review: The Next Three Days

I got a free screening tickets to see this Tuesday night. Though I wasn’t totally sold on the trailer, I figure ‘hey, it’s free and it’s got Russell Crowe in it, how bad can it be?’ Well, turns out it’s not bad at all, in fact, it’s a pretty solid movie that’s intelligent and well-crafted. Directed by writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Casino Royale), The Next Three Days is a remake of the French film Anything for Her (Pour Elle).

Crowe plays John Brennan, an ordinary family man whose life takes an unexpected turn when his wife Laura is sent to prison for murder she claimed she didn’t commit. The trailer makes it look like it’s about some ferocious vengeance thriller, but it really doesn’t do this movie justice as it’s much smarter than that. I’d say it’s more of a crime drama as it focuses on the years John struggles to raise his young son without his wife by his side, and how he’s plagued by his strong belief that his wife is innocent, which leads to the drastic measures he takes in the name of love.

Now, if you’re expecting a fast-paced type of action movie in the vein of Bourne or Bond movies, this might not be a movie for you. This is what I’d say a thinking man’s thriller that takes its time for the audience to get into the head of the character. Yes, it might feel tedious at times, and people with short attention span probably wish there were more action. But as my hubby pointed out after the movie, the unhurried, quiet scenes help you identify with what John is feeling… his desperation the longer his wife stays in prison that his daily routine life becomes increasingly unbearable. The pace makes it believable for John to devise an elaborate escape plan, I mean, he doesn’t suddenly become an action hero a la Die Hard‘s John McClane where everything he sets out to do works out as planned.

The last half hour packs on the thrill, and by this time we are ready to see the payoff of all of John’s meticulous efforts. We’ve become so invested in this Brennan family that regardless whether Laura is guilty or not, we sympathize with them (especially John) so much that we want them to survive. The getaway though downtown Pittsburgh and the subway/airport chase are exciting and keep you on the edge of your seat, but never gratuitous or overdone.

Now, the performances. Elizabeth Banks turns in a pretty convincing dramatic performance as Laura, though she hardly looks dowdy enough for having been in prison for a few years. Liam Neeson makes a brief but memorable cameo as a prison-related book author that John consults with. He warns John what he must become in order to pull off such a massive undertaking, somehow his dialog reminds me a bit of his Batman Begins role as Henri Ducard as he advises Bruce Wayne to become the legendary caped crusader. Olivia Wilde (massively popular with the fan-boys due to all those TRON Legacy promos) also has a small supporting role, though she doesn’t seem that crucial to the story.

The best part about this movie is without a doubt, Crowe’s performance. He’s equally believable alternating between a gentle, dotting dad and an unrelenting man-on-a-mission. Some people say this isn’t a ‘typical Russell Crowe movie.’ I’m not sure what that exactly means… I never thought of the Aussie thespian being pigeonholed into a single type of movie. Sure he’s famous for playing a bad-ass tough guy, but he’s done plenty of ‘every man’ roles as well. If he’s suddenly starring in a musical where he sings every single line and starts dancing like Fred Astaire, then fine, you could say it isn’t something you normally see him in (though I won’t rule out he WON’T be doing a role like that). In any case, I dare say this is one of his best roles even in such a staggering resume and further solidifies why he’s one the greatest actors working today.

Anyone interested in seeing this? If you’re on the fence whether to see it or not, I’d say give it a shot and don’t judge this movie by its trailer.

Updates on FC’s Top Ten Most Anticipated 2010 Flix: Part 2

Here’s the second part of my earlier post. Two of the last five have ‘fallen out’ of my anticipated list, but I might still check ’em out on DVD.

6. Rum Diary (TBD, 2010)

Photo courtesy of http://www.thebadandugly.com

Wow, this movie still has yet to find a distributor, despite having Johnny Depp and Aaron Eckhart as the lead actors. As I said in my previous post back in July with the on-set pics in Puerto Rico, the movie is based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson with the same name, Depp plays an American journalist named Paul Kemp, which is loosely based on the author’s own life journey.

According to CinemaBlend, “…the rumor is that the movie may show up at Cannes or barring that, the movie’s producer may show up at Cannes looking for someone to distribute [it].” Well, I hope we get to see it this year yet.

7. Robin Hood (May 14th, 2010)
Two of my favorite Aussie actors Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett in a movie that echoes one of my beloved movie Gladiator. What’s not to love? This is one of the few critics-proof movie for me this year. The second trailer wets my appetite even more!


8. The TownSeptember 10th, 2010

I think Ben Affleck is probably a better director than he is an actor, as proven by his excellent effort in Gone Baby Gone. He’s going to do both in this crime thriller set in his hometown of Boston. The plot: As he plans his next job, a longtime thief tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists, as well as the FBI agent looking to bring him and his crew down. Based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, NOT to be confused with the Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood flick 🙂

The movie’s got two hot TV stars: Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as the FBI agent and Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) as Affleck’s troubled ex-girlfriend, who happens to be Jeremy Renner’s sister (fresh out of his Oscar nom for The Hurt Locker). Chris Cooper will play Affleck’s father and Rebecca Hall as the bank manager. Great cast, though I’m primarily curious to see how Affleck’s direction on this one will pan out.

9. The Next Three DaysNovember 19th (replacing Leaves of Grass – I was stoked when I first heard about this almost a year ago, but as soon as I saw the trailer let’s just say I lost interest, double Ed Norton notwithstanding)

Per SlashFilm, this crime drama is a remake of a French film, about a husband (Russell Crowe) looking to break his wrongly imprisoned wife (Elizabeth Banks) out of jail. At least, she says she’s wrongly imprisoned.

The film also stars Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Jonathan Tucker, Brian Dennehy, and RZA. Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) pens the script AND directs the film, which is now listed to be in post-production. I hope this is more Casino Royale than Quantum of Solace, which were both written by Haggis, but I’m always up for seeing two great thespians (Crowe + Neeson) square off on-screen!

10. The A-Team June 11 (replacing Mel Gibson’s Edge of Darkness)
Suffice it to say the second trailer won me over. “They’re the best and they specialize in the ridiculous!” Jessica Biel’s FBI agent quips. Yeah, BRING IT ON! It’s the quintessential summer popcorn flick and this one looks darn entertaining! Love the part when BA whistles the A-Team tune before he blew off the skyscraper window. I find myself humming that tune every so often now 🙂

….

Honorable mentions:

  • The Expendables (August 20)
    I know I’m going to get flak for putting this on the honorable mentions, but I was kind of meh about the trailer (which I said to Marc in the comment section of his post). I still might see this in the theater, I’m just not as psyched about it as when I first heard about it.
  • Knight & Day (July 2)
    I’m not a huge Tom Cruise fan by any means, but the trailer of the action-comedy looks like fun. Plus, director James Mangold did Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma, so how bad can it be, right?
  • Paul (TBD)
    Simon Pegg/Nick Frost team up again in this sci-fi comedy about two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51. As a fan of Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz, naturally I’m intrigued by this one. I’ll spotlight this project sometime soon.