Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Next Three Days: Grade B

The Next Three Days (2010)

Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks. Writer-director Paul Haggis.

Banks is riveting as an ordinary office worker who is unexpectedly accused of murdering her boss. The evidence is pretty shaky but good enough for the movies. Her fingerprints are on the blunt object, although an omniscient cutaway shows us that she just moved it out of her way in the parking garage. And oh, yeah, it had some victim’s blood on it which she managed to pick up as well. That's a life sentence in Hollywood.

She goes to prison, all appeals are lost. Her husband, Crowe, is an ordinary college professor who doesn’t have the money for high priced lawyers but believes in his wife’s innocence. He is frustrated and helpless. Being a bookish kind of guy, he researches the heck out of how to accomplish a prison break. Then he carefully executes his very detailed and tricky plan, and that is the fun part of the movie.

What makes this extremely implausible story worth watching is the fine acting from the two principals. Crowe is capable of a lot more than swishing a sword around. He really can act and this is among his best performances, well worth the price of admission. He does not step out of his seething, mumbling, slit-eyed, laconic persona – he is still Russell Crowe, (nor does he go very long without the aviator sunglasses), but still, he is a compelling screen presence. Against Banks, the acting makes this thriller for ordinary people seem more reasonable than it is.

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