Based on the infinitely superior French thriller, POUR ELLE, THE NEXT THREE DAYS is a road kill of a thriller. Flattened beyond recognition as being its particular genre, and with all its vital, life-giving juices mercilessly squished out of it. Whats left is a pulpy mess that is by turns painfully protracted and irritatingly stupid. Russell Crowe, an actor who can generate tempests on screen, is here bland, taking a turn at a warm and fuzzy role that seems to have left him confused. The script, too, is confused as it perambulates about instead of being lean and mean.
Crowe is John Brennan, a mild-mannered college professor. Community college, but an educated man nonetheless. He has a deeply physical relationship with his wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), and a close one with their three-year-old son, Luke (Ty Simpkins). Circumstantial evidence, coupled with Laras demonstrated issues with anger management, lands her in jail without parole on a murder rap, and John quietly keeping the case alive through appeals that are going nowhere. When the last one fails, John decides to take matters into his own hands. After portentously quoting form Cervantes in his class, he consults with an expert on prison breaks (Liam Neeson), and then sets about methodically working out the details of breaking Lara out of the slammer with enough money for them and Luke to start a new life abroad.
There are many ways to depict an orderly and methodical mind on camera. Having the owner of that mind pin things to a wall, makes lists, and stare at both of them for what seems like forever is not the one that works. Crowe stares, he contemplates, he looks adoringly at son and wife. He is entropys last stand. Its a last stand that fills every crevice of the first 2/3 of the flick. Along the way John takes lessons from the internet on how to open locked car doors, how to make something called a bump key, and in the real world, runs afoul of meth dealers. Even then, Crowes voice never rises much above a whisper, even when hes yelling. As for Banks, her character development is confined to the gradually increasing frizz and split-ends that she develops using prison shampoo. Brian Dennehy pops up as Johns silent father, who looms in the background looking bored.
Tedious, time-consuming, and tremendously underwhelming, THE NEXT THREE DAYS is yet another example of a remake (see DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS) that missed what made the original worth watching.