There are a lot of films out there in which a regular chap (or occasionally chap-ess) suffers some personal setback or tragedy, often involving a child or love interest being endangered or killed. They immediately snap, seize the nearest automatic weapon and become an action hero.
In The Next Three Days, screenwriter/director Paul Haggis gives us a different version of this template, as Russell Crowe plays a teacher who must take extreme measures to save his wife, but doesn’t quite know how. It’s not a comedy, but not quite a brainless action thriller either – does this work?
Mister Crowe And The Little Touches
For the most part, yes, it hums along okay. The scenes in which our everyman hero attempts to enter the underworld, usually quite awkwardly, are by far the highlight. The little touches, like his multiple false starts before finally getting anywhere, and the details of said attempts, make it a little more interesting.
Of course, normally in these movies the hero is ex-cop or ex-military, so coincidentally has all the training he needs to start blowing away drug dealers. But Crowe’s character is a teacher, so approaches it accordingly, as an academic research project. Again, that kind of variation stops me from getting bored.
I also liked the way his wife’s hair went from blonde to brown as her prison ordeal dragged on. Few films bother with that sort of thing.
And Then It All Goes Nuts
As often happens in grounded tales of ordinary people in extreme situations, the story got increasingly far-fetched as it neared an end. Some details of his amazing masterplan would have been difficult to pull off without the ability to predict the future, and that lost me a little. Crowe’s character is sympathetic throughout, though, so I was still interested in what would happen.
So yes, as action thrillers go, this is perfectly good. It’s got human moments, rather than tedious shoot-outs, and Russell Crowe seems to suit the Joe Bloggs role better than the Robin Hood-esque action hero nowadays. I’d be hesitant to declare it genius, but you could do a lot worse if you fancy a bit of movie action this weekend. If you end up seeing it, let me know if you agree.