The Next Three Days
Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks play a pair of in-love parents who have their bucolic, Prius-owning marriage upended after Banks is arrested and convicted of murdering her boss. To the prosecution, it’s an airtight case: several witnesses saw them arguing just hours before the murder and Banks’ fingerprints are on the weapon and the victim’s blood is spattered on her trench coat. Everyone thinks she’s guilty—they just won’t admit it to Crowe who sets about trying to appeal her sentence with the passion of Joan of Arc. And when he runs out of higher courts, he turns to Liam Neeson as a jailbird Houdini who knows all the tricks. (Though, sadly, Neeson’s only got one scene before he escapes from the movie, too.) Crowe’s got a brainy glower and a bulky, clumsy menace that writer-director Paul Haggis plays up as the bourgeois husband schemes and slums to put together his best-possible plan. And Haggis knows that the question isn’t only can he do it, but should he? He’s believable as a school teacher driven to obsession, even if the age gap between him and Banks keeps us from buying their hot romance. Banks is given less to work with; her character flips from Donna Reed to depressed inmate without making us believe in the woman in between. She’s got the menace, but isn’t given the depth—instead she comes across like a Southern beauty queen who would swap her competition’s face cream with fake tanner. But Haggis has done well at setting up the stakes and the structure of a breakout—they’ve got just 35 minutes to flee the city before roadblocks lock them down—and when the clock starts ticking, we’re on the edge of our seats.