' ' Cinema Romantico: The Next Three Days

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Next Three Days

The afternoon of the Big 12 Championship Game involving my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers I wanted - strike that! - needed to see a movie. It was the only way to settle my nerves, and because the movie's specific purpose was nerve-settling, meaning I wouldn't be able to pay it the proper attention, it needed to be a movie I did not particularly want to see. Thus, there were two clear options: "The Next Three Days" or "Love And Other Drugs." These movies could create the necessary diversion. The problem that inevitably emerged, however, was that I could not decide which one I should see. It's difficult to choose between two movies you don't want to see. I turned to A.O. Scott of The New York Times who wrote a review for each film to see what he said. Only a few paragraphs into his tome on "The Next Three Days" he wrote of a low level drug dealer played by...wait for it...Kevin Corrigan. Bingo! I didn't even read the "Love And Other Drugs" review. The movie gods had spoken.

Kevin Corrigan plays Alex, no doubt because the conversation between the filmmaker and the casting director went something like this....

Filmmaker: "We need someone who can play a greasy haired guy with a gold chain who runs a meth lab out of his house."
Casting Director: "Get me Kevin Corrigan's agent! NOW!!!"

Tragically, pretty much as soon as Kevin Corrigan turns up onscreen he gets shot, though he doesn't die right away. In fact, upon getting shot he cackles which is entirely Corrigan-esque. I sometimes wish he would get more than these one scene walk-on roles, yet I also wonder if that would ruin the K.C. Magic. But I digress.

Written and Directed by Paul Haggis, the Michael Cimino of screenwriters, "The Next Three Days" is kinda "Conviction" as re-imagined by Michael Bay. When his wife Laura (Elizabeth Banks) is charged with murder - set up by an opening scene that would like to be the opening scene in "The Social Network" only to fall far short - and put in prison for a severe chunk of time and options become exhausted, John (Russell Crowe) doesn't go to law school and become a lawyer to work on his wife's case. Nope, he decides he's gonna break her out....with their son Luke (Ty Simpkins) in tow. After all, she's innocent. She is innocent, right?

Problem is John is merely a mild-mannered community college professor. Enter Liam Neeson for a solid cameo as a man who has broken out of seven prisons - "no prison in the world is airtight", remember that, future criminals - and who provides John with crucial information and advice. And so John sets about hatching a scheme of diabolical but well intentioned proportions.

It is in here somewhere, in the long second act, that some tougher ideas than are typically found in films of this sort simmer. He makes awful decisions that, well, this guy would make. He doesn't know what he's doing and besides, as a character tells him, to ensure no one misses the point, "You want this too much. You'll get someone killed." Will he get himself killed? Will he get his wife killed? Will he get Kevin Corrigan killed? (Whoops! I already gave that one away!)   Unfortunately the film focuses more on the genre aspects than his internal conflict and so it never hits as hard as one would hope.

Eventually it will devolve into the jail break and this is not giving anything away because the preview gives it away - in fact, the preview gives away much more than I'm giving away - but, oddly, there is one shot in the preview that isn't quite exactly what you expect in the movie itself and brings into hard focus the flaw of "The Next Three Days." It's when John and Laura are speed racing down the freeway and Laura is hanging out of the car, her face dangling inches from the cement, a semi truck careening towards them. The reason for this when it is reached in the movie isn't quite what you think it is because moments before it happens Russell Crowe's character appears to have made a decision movie characters are simply not allowed to make. In its aftermath I was actually intrigued. "Are they really going to let this happen?" 

What do you think? This is Paul Haggis. People don't just get their cake and eat it too, they get to get their cake and eat it topped with triple chocolate sprinkles, powdered sugar, candy coated pecans and jelly beans. EVERYBODY WINS!!! Except the audience.

And Kevin Corrigan.

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