“The Next Three Days” Movie Review

     Paul Haggis, the Academy Award winning screen writer for "Million Dollar Baby" and "Crash" returns doing both the screen writing and directing chores in the suspense thriller "The Next Three Days".  Teamed this time with Russell Crowe, Haggis delivers a smart character driven film with plenty of twists and turns that keep you guessing until the end.  It's a shame this film has gotten lost in the holiday shuffle as an alternative to the new Potter film, but I predict "The Next Three Days" will gain quite a following once it hits home video early next year.  This one is definitely worth your time.

     The film gets off to a quick start.  John Brennan’s (Crowe) wife Lara, played by Elizabeth Banks, is arrested and ultimately convicted of murder.  Even though there is clear evidence she is guilty, John doesn't believe it, but the appeals courts are not buying it and she remains incarcerated.  Making matters worse is an attempted suicide by Lara which only fuels John's need to find a way to get her out.  In a nifty plot device, John meets Damon a man famous for escaping prison 7 times.  Played by Liam Neeson, he gives John the run down on what he would need and more importantly what mind set he must have.  The mind set is important as we see Crowe transform from an English teacher to a man intent and capable of busting his wife out of jail. When he buys a gun for the first time, he tells the clerk “Just show me where the bullets go.”

     On screen, this is clearly Crowe's movie.  He's in nearly every scene and plays each with the believability you would expect from such a fine actor.  There are many scenes necessary to set things up, but the final act is intense and John’s plan is masterful.  The advice given by Neeson's character is crucial, especially reference the timing of the plan and how it is carried out.  It's as if John has thought of everything and he certainly needed to, what with a large contingent of the Pittsburg PD right on his tail.  There are numerous suspenseful moments where you are led to believe the plan will fail, only to find John is one step ahead.

     Elizabeth Banks is in probably the finest form of her career here as there are several moments where you think she has lost all hope, thus ending any chance of a successful plan to help her escape.  In order for this to go down, you figure she has to have some kind of mental stability, yet you will never be sure she is as there are many scenes in which she demonstrates the contrary.  The question with Bank's character Lara throughout is the matter of her innocence.  This is left into question for the entire film,  so you really never know that if John pulls off the escape, is he setting a guilty murderer free?

     With a very meager opening weekend, does "The Next Three Days" indicate Russell Crowe is fading as a bankable star?  I think, just like any actor of his caliber and appeal, Crowe has found himself cast in a risky role during a time where competition for box office dollars has never been more fierce. All that aside, The Next 3 Days is a solid entry in the crime thriller genre and is worth a look now or down the road if your looking for a quality entertainment.  When compared to the other efforts of Paul Haggis, The Next Three Days doesn’t surpass them, but it does make a worthy entry into his ever growing filmography. GRADE: B