‘Crash’ director aimless in approach

By Drew Hunt

In the film “The Next Three Days,” Russell Crowe plays John Brennan, whose wife Laura—played by Elizabeth Banks—is arrested and found guilty for murdering her boss. She’s given a life sentence without parole, but of course, insists she’s innocent. After it becomes apparent Laura will never be freed from prison, John—ever the dutiful husband—tasks himself with breaking her out and fleeing the country with their young son in tow.

As he dedicates himself to plotting every detail of her escape, John devolves into a fanatic state—portrayed with all the ham-fisted lethargy Crowe has somehow made a career out of.

Given the absurdity of the premise, it’s clear director Paul Hagis was seemingly unconcerned with making a good, or even coherent, film.

This kind of plot-heavy rigmarole is the veritable bread and butter for a hackneyed studio director like Hagis, whose 2004 film “Crash,” with its fraudulent “social commentary” just might be the worst film to ever win a Best Picture award at the Oscars.

Meanwhile, “The Next Three Days” may be the most absurd and morally confused film to hit theaters this year. The stakes presented by Hagis are not only far fetched, but are seemingly devoid of any rationality or realism.

To his credit, though, he does think as far as realizing the audience might not buy Crowe’s ability to free his wife from a maximum security prison. Thankfully, there’s an all-too-convenient scene in which—for whatever reason—Liam Neeson plays Damon, a “prison break expert” who walks Crowe through the process in a Brooklyn coffee shop and equips him with all the knowledge necessary to complete the deed.

You know, the kind of thing that happens all the time.

Upon deciding to go ahead with the plan, Crowe faces all the dilemmas one would imagine—most notably, the moral implications that present themselves when one decides to free a person who has been convicted of murder.

However, these questions are essentially glossed over in lieu of some super sweet car chases and totally awesome meth lab robberies—apparently, if your wife is wrongly accused of murder, it’s completely acceptable to rob and murder a pair of drug dealers as a means of earning more cash for breaking her out of prison.

At that, there’s a scene early in the film where Haggis officiously equates this story with that of Don Quixote’s. His attempt to analogize the dilemma of Crowe’s character to some sort of quixotic quest is both an egregious misinterpretation of the term and a bastardization of literary technique.

Additionally, it won’t take the most logical moviegoers to notice the true victim of this plight is the couple’s young son. But Haggis relegates him to a mere prop—a pawn in some sort of illogical game. The emotional turmoil surely inflicted upon the young child as a result of the extreme actions taken by his parents is never explored and this speaks volumes of Haggis’ ineptitude.

Perhaps most troubling is the ease at which “The Next Three Days” unravels—as if there was never a second guess on behalf of Haggis, Crowe or the studio. The fundamental improbability of this film should have been a warning flag of sorts—but almost assuredly, these issues were not seen as problematic. More likely, they were perceived as the exact opposite. And that’s disheartening.