I'm steadily becoming less interested in Russell Crowe. He seems to be bringing less to the acting table every time I watch him. He started off very well, appropriately playing the Australian tough-man Hando in Romper Stomper, earned a place within my Favourite Actors with his role of 'Budd' White in L.A. Confidential, and was on top of the acting world when he won the Best Actor Oscar for his role of Maximus in Gladiator, which he fully deserved.
However, nowadays, with his partnership with Ridley Scott bordering on Burton/Depp, his roles seem to be becoming blander and blander, with a possible exception being his role in American Gangster. They even decided to re-release Gladiator under the title "Robin Hood" to remind us of how well he could act. Unfortunately the role was undercut with a dreadful accent, resulting in me and other people not being able to take him seriously.
His latest role in The Next Three Days has him playing husband to a wrongly-imprisoned wife, father to a motherless son, and he will break her out of prison. In the next three days, or the next after that!
Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Crowe plays John Brennan, a high-school teacher who's wife (Elizabeth Mitchell) is imprisoned for the murder of her boss, although she implores her innocence. She gets sentenced to life imprisonment so the level-headed teacher decides the only logical reaction is to break her out of prison in a very intricate and difficult method.
Along the way, he gathers help from a three-minute cameo of Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde in a fine twin example of pointless casting and misused talent, as well as his father (Brian Dehenny). The fact that the most screen-time any of these fantastic actors gets is about five minutes lets you know this film is incredibly Crowe-heavy. Unfortunately it's these moments of interaction where the most interesting dynamics appear, and then Crowe retreats into his 'single-father/genius-escapologist/loner' mode to bore us once more. Again, this might just be my personal feelings towards Crowe, but I would have much rather seen Neeson in the title role, as I felt he could have brought some of the personal revenge performance that made Taken such a underrated thrill.
The entire film is built up to the titular “Next Three Days”, however they aren't given enough screen-time and don't deliver much pay-off. More attention is given to “The Last Three Years” and then “The Last Three Months” to focus on how Crowe's character carefully plans his scheme. When discussing this film with a friend, they brought up the similarities the film has with another 'broken-man-turned-intricate-genius' film; Law-Abiding Citizen.
Citizen features another determined father using three years to his advantage to plot an incredibly over-the-top revenge scheme, with fantastic and entertaining results. Whilst the plot-lines don't exactly follow suit, there is a feeling throughout The Next Three Days that we are watching the bits that Citizen felt were too boring. Whilst it is interesting to see how Crowe discovered some of the methods he tried and failed with, we were shown a poster of Crowe and Mitchell running, with the promise of it being a 'thriller'. Crowe breaks out Mitchell in the last quarter of the film, run a bit, then it's over. Hardly as thrilling as Gerald “It's gonna be biblical” Butler's shenanigans.
In short: looking for a thriller where a father gets revenge on a travesty of justice, and the results are heart-pounding and impressive, if a little unrealistic? Watch Law Abiding Citizen.
Looking for a drama where a father plots an escape for a long three years for it to unravel in quick three minutes? All for a woman who may be guilty and deserving? Watch The Next Three Days.
Rating – 4/10