I enjoyed Anything For Her (aka Pour Elle), upon which The Next Three Days is based, so I was initially unsure abut this. Added to that, the director is Paul Haggis, who used to have a solid career writing TV shows before creating preachy atrocities like Crash and Million Dollar Baby. Anyway, I decided that I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, as this could be a surefire attempt to go straight by remaking a fine thriller with a top cast.
Hmmm. Haggis has the sense to retain the ominous opening scene, with its echoes of Reservoir Dogs, which lets you know that there might not be a happy ending. He also retains almost all of the opening two thirds, not just the script but also the visuals, to the point where you wonder why he bothered with the remake at all. The major difference is that he refuses to clear up the question of the wife’s guilt or innocence until much later in the movie, which is an excellent idea and gives Elizabeth Banks much more to chew on than Diane Kruger had in the original.
Speaking of Banks – she’s terrific in this (as she is in most of her movies, usually against the odds) creating a believable flawed character. Crowe does his best impression of an Ordinary Bloke, down to the stubble, badly fitting jeans and excess weight, but his past roles bring some unnecessary baggage and you’re never that surprised when he turns into an action man when required. In that respect he loses out to the original’s Vincent Lindon, but on the plus side it’s easier to believe that he’s married to someone who looks like a supermodel.
So after 90 minutes of translating Paris into Pittsburgh, and some entertaining cameos from Liam Neeson, Brian Dennehy, Daniel Stern, Kevin Corrigan and Jason Beghe – you couldn’t film in Pittsburgh without Romero alumni – Haggis actually makes a bold move, and extends the finale by adding car chases and beefing up the role of Crowe’s fellow ‘single-parent’ acquaintance. As she’s played by Olivia Wilde, nobody’s idea of a random woman, it’s just another indicator of this movie’s fragile grasp on reality.
This is the main problem with Haggis’ adaptation. Where the original turned in at a mean and lean 96 minutes, this one clocks up 122 minutes, or 133 minutes if you’re in Australia. I’m all in favour of movies taking the necessary time to tell the story, but not when it’s already been proved that this one can be told quickly, and not when Haggis risks boredom and then adds an unnecessary ten minutes after the real action is over.
It would be interesting to watch The Next Three Days completely out of context, and I suspect I’d be a lot kinder, as it has two fine lead performances, and is a tense and well-acted thriller which mostly treats its audience with respect, but the last half is stretched out inexcusably; you’re likely to think so even if you’ve not seen Anything For Her.
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