Elizabeth Banks is put in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. Russel Croew is her perfect husband, who, instead of trying to find the real murderer, consults with Liam Neeson for about thirty seconds and then launches a detailed plan to break her out of prison and whisk her off to an undisclosed, undiscoverable country. The planning of an escape can be as thrilling as the escape itself, but director Paul Haggis has no idea how to make it that way. The first hour and a half of this film really drags.
And then it gets down to the actual escape, and it’s almost good, except for one little thing: the police in this film are from another universe. A director might’ve gotten away with having cops acting like this before “The Wire,” but alas, the landscape has changed. For instance: Crowe accidentally kills a drug dealer. If you’ve watched two episodes of “The Wire” (and I’ve watched significantly more) you know that the cops are going to work about as hard on this murder case as they are on finally kicking that donut addiction. But the cops in “The Next Three Days” work the case incredibly hard, and come up with impossibly speedy results; if we’re to take the title of the film seriously, they go from murder scene to realizing that Crowe’s going to attempt to break his wife out of prison in less than 24 hours — all on the strength of a broken taillight. Darn Priuses. Should never have bought a hybrid.
What this film needs:
1. Decent secondary characters to make the first two acts more interesting. The roles are there (Olivia Wilde as a neighbor, Brian Denehy as Crowe’s father) but they’re just that – roles. No meat on the bones.
2. Tommy Lee Jones in “The Fugitive.” A decent cop antagonist would do WONDERS for this film. And hey, while he’s trying to foil Crowe’s plan, he could actually tie up the loose ends of whether or not his wife actually committed the murder. You know, like in “The Fugitive.”
3. A consultant who’s actually done police work. Or at least watched “The Wire.”