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The Next Three Days Stretches All Bounds of Believability

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • Updated May 01, 2013
<i>The Next Three Days</i> Stretches All Bounds of Believability

DVD Release Date:  March 8, 2011
Theatrical Relase Date:  November 19, 2010
Rating:  PG-13 (for violence, drug material, language, some sexuality and thematic elements)
Genre:  Drama, Thriller, Crime
Run Time:  122 min.
Director:  Paul Haggis
Actors:  Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Veronica Brown, Ty Simpkins, Trudie Styler

Aside from the recent reboots of the James Bond franchise, writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash, In the Valley of Elah) has dedicated the bulk of his film career to fashioning complex morality tales—the sort of movies designed to provoke emotion and provide great food for thought once the credits have rolled.

While Haggis has certainly made a noble effort in serving up more than just feel-good entertainment, particularly in the Oscar-winning Crash, an often-volatile reflection on modern race relations, his execution still tends to be pretty ham-fisted. And that proclivity toward particularly extreme situations to prove his point—the ones that stretch all bounds of believability—is ultimately what severely hampers The Next Three Days, too.

Much like last month's Conviction, but far, far less effective in making its case, The Next Three Days is the story of how far someone would go to secure the freedom of an innocent family member who's been sent to prison without much hope of making it out any time soon. But unlike Conviction where the protagonist places her hope in the law and becomes her brother's own defense counsel, Russell Crowe's character, a mild-mannered English teacher, mind you, decides to go rogue instead by basically borrowing a page from TV's Prison Break.

But first, let's back up, shall we? The whole ordeal begins three years earlier at the breakfast table when this seemingly close-knit family (we spend about three minutes getting to know their family dynamic, after all), comprised of John (Crowe), Lara (Elizabeth Banks) and their young son (Ty Simpkins) endure the shock of their lives when local police barge in and immediately arrest Lara for murder. Interestingly enough, this all happens while Lara is trying to scrub a large bloodstain from her beige trench coat. Perhaps even more intriguing is that she's doing that the day after she and her now-deceased boss really got into it after work…

Cue ominous music.

Since there's plenty of evidence that suggests Lara is the killer, namely the blood on the jacket and her DNA on the murder weapon, she's immediately carted off to Allegheny County Jail. While John visits her regularly and certainly gives her case his best effort when he's not teaching or taking care of Luke, he soon realizes that an appeal isn't likely, news that eventually causes Lara to unsuccessfully attempt suicide.

Fearing for his wife's life and the long-term emotional health of his son, John knows it's quite possible that Lara's innocence may never be proven, so he arranges a meeting with an ex-con in Brooklyn named Damon (a scene-stealing Liam Neeson) who's managed to successfully break out of prison seven times. Warning John that breaking out is easy if a proper plan is in place but that it's staying free that's the problem, John hangs on every word Damon says and makes a few notes.

Learning the proverbial tricks of the prison break trade in oh, about 10 minutes or so, John never solicits Damon's help again, a curious choice, considering he's a novice. But don't worry, the man who teaches Don Quixote by day immediately starts becoming a really bad guy by night. And in case you haven't already figured it out, it's this juncture of the movie where the story starts spiraling into completely laughable territory.

Somewhere between John learning how to make a bump key for future break-ins on YouTube, heading to the ghetto in his Prius so he can snag fake passports and OxyContin and successfully blowing up a meth lab, the script just loses its way. Sure, suspending your disbelief is almost a requirement for most movie-watching these days, but completely throwing any semblance of logic out the window is another matter altogether.

Truth be told, there's just not much about The Next Three Days that rings even close to true, despite an intriguing premise. Without proper support in even exploring the question's deeper implications, not to mention developing why John was so unwaveringly devoted to Lara's innocence when the screenplay barely established their relationship, you can't help but wonder why Haggis even tried in the first place.


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking depicted, plus John resorts to dealing with drug dealers to get fake passports and OxyContin. A meth lab is blown up.
  • Language/Profanity:  One use of the "f" word, plus a smattering of other profanity including a--, da--, and he--. The Lord's name is also taken in vain on a couple of occasions.
  • Sex/Nudity:  No sex or nudity. We see Lara and her hubby making out in a car. Later on, Lara is disappointed that she's not allowed conjugal visits in prison. In the film's opening scene, Lara gets angry with her "friend" who always hits on her husband and wears extremely low-cut tops.
  • Violence:  We see brief glimpses of what led up to the murder of Lara's co-worker, including her getting hit on the head with a fire extinguisher. Lara attempts suicide, although all we see are her bandaged wrists after the fact. John ventures into Pittsburgh's ghetto to get fake passports, which leads to him getting majorly beat up and being warned not to show up there again. Of course, John doesn't stay away, and that leads to the death of two drug dealers by gunfire. There are also some intense scenes where John is running from the law—and breaking all the rules in the process.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.