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The Next Three Days

Year: 2011
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: Paul Haggis
Producer: Paul Haggis
Writer: Paul Haggis
Cast: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Daniel Stern, Brian Dennehy

Paul Haggis will one day be remembered as commanding a huge amount of attention and then disappearing in a very short amount of time. In the annals of movie history we'll equate him with Smell-o-vision.

Back around the Crash and Million Dollar Baby days he was a Hollywood Midas. Then he was part of the ignored subgenre of Iraq movies with In the Valley of Elah. Now he's offered this limp drama thriller with a similarly flabby, phoned-in effort by Russell Crowe. Perhaps Crowe can be Haggis new muse instead of Ridley Scott's – both their careers are subject to an unshakable law of diminishing returns.

He plays John, a loving husband and Dad enjoying his marriage to hot, smart wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) and his quiet suburban life with his infant son. We meet the couple enjoying a night out and then married banter and happy times around the breakfast table the next morning, so you know something's going to go wrong.

It does when the police burst in and drag Lara away for the murder of her boss. John spends the next few years desperately trying to build the case for her freedom and keep his son on the straight and narrow even though the kid won't speak to his mother during visits.

Finally he seeks out an author/prison escapee (Neeson, happily collecting a cheque for his single scene) to ask him how to go about busting his wife out. To be fair the plan and execution are interesting to watch and Haggis does a good job of avoiding some tropes, but in the thick of it I thought I was lost in a Seven Eleven, there were so many conveniences and coincidences. The cop chasing them out of the hospital just happens to look down from a balcony into the street and spot them in the crowd. After they find the family house where John's planned the sting, they miraculously find their way to the skip where he's dumped all the maps, papers and notes.

Haggis shrouds the action and thrills in the cinema of drama with a real sense of the potential to lose and sad music to bring the message home, but too much of it just didn't ring true, and when you strip away the 'directoriness' it's just a procedural chase thriller.

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