"Before you do anything, you have to ask yourself if you can do it....And if you can't, don't start, 'cause you'll just get someone killed."Russell Crowe stars as your average father dealing with some real non-average circumstances in the thriller The Next Three Days. He plays John Brennan, a schoolteacher father whose wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is accused and convicted of murdering her boss and sent to jail for life.
So, in true Crowe form as the flawed cinematic hero, John decides to not take this verdict lying down and deliberately rubs shoulders with a few reliably sketchy characters [including Damon Pennington (played by Liam Neeson)] to devise a scheme to break out his wife from the state penitentiary. Following the plan to a tee, Crowe meets with the right people at the right times, forges the right amount of evidence to hide his own tracks, apparently learns how to use a gun (with surprising aim), and--bingo--is on his way to a real Shawshank Redemption, with or without his wife's blessing. But you know something must go wrong, right? But when? And what will that one thing be?
Well, see, that's where it kinda falls apart. In comes Elizabeth Banks, whose role calls for so much but she delivers so little. This enormously dramatic thing has happened to her and yet the audience doesn't get that impression from her. She remarkably creates an ambiguously vague character but somehow we still feel cheated. Did she or didn't she do it? Well, she neither plays deliciously sly or heartbreakingly sad either way. So the audience doesn't really care. We're so focused on Crowe's much more developed performance, but our interest dwindles once he's forced to play it against Banks's Lara. Their chemistry is forced, and it ends up killing the pace of the movie.
It's great to see Banks outside of her signature goofy romantic comedies (in which she is notably good), but put to star head to head in a thriller alongside Russell Crowe, you see too many weaknesses in her performance glaring at you. Not to say Banks was the only problem during the second half of the film. Banks just didn't help an already off-course second act. It would have been far more compelling with a stronger actress but, truth be told, the ending started off anti-climactic then concluded very predictable. It should have been much tighter. It seemed a little rushed at the end there. Overall, Crowe brought his A-game in the beginning but coupled with a bi-polar second half and a weak actress, The Next Three Days unfortunately crumbles at the end.