The Next Three Days should have at least had the success of an action-packed Liam Neeson movie (more on him below). The action is sturdy, the suspense is taut, and the overall story is ridiculous, but fun. So what happened? Well, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part One is what happened. Both movies were released on the same weekend, meaning a lot of people might not have seen this excellent thriller back when it came out. Hopefully, now that it’s out on DVD, it will get the recognition that it deserves.
Say what you will about Crash, but Paul Haggis can direct his ass off. I know he’s probably more known in Hollywood circles for his writing credits, as Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, and In the Valley of Elah, which he also directed, were all his babies. But man, if this isn’t a damn good action thriller, then I don’t know what is. That said, it’s not perfect, as the pacing can get a little soggy at times, and some of the characters are underused (I’m looking at you, Liam Neeson), but overall, it’s a first-rate action flick with enough twists and turns to make you bite your nails to the finger.
The story centers around a community college professor named John Brennan (Russell Crowe) whose wife (Elizabeth Banks) gets arrested for murder. This sets off a series of events where Brennan goes on a mission to get her out of jail. Brennan seeks guidance from Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), a gruff-talking writer who literally wrote the book on breaking out of prison. And it’s from there on out that the stakes continue to rise until the satisfying conclusion. It’s really intense.
Buuuut…back to Liam Neeson. I remember when I saw the trailer for this film back when it was coming out. I got all psyched because I thought I’d see Russell Crowe and Liam Neeson in a take-no-prisoners, whose-dick-is-bigger, action thriller together. But this is not that film. Instead, Neeson is literally only in the movie for one scene, which upset me on the onset. But I got over that fact when the movie started picking up. It’s almost as if his brief cameo is like an OK for the audience to know that, yeah, Neeson is badass, and he gives his approval for us to follow along with his advice to Brennan. And his advice is pretty extreme.
Throughout the film, we see Brennan drawing maps and writing things like “Key” or dollar signs to correspond with what he’s going to do next to make sure his plans go through. I would say it’s all a little bit contrived if not for how tense the scenes that follow it are. For example, in one scene, he’s trying to figure out how to make a key that will unlock a prison door, and he winds up creating this “bump” key, which can apparently fit into any lock if done correctly. But things don’t go quite as planned when he tries to use it at the prison, and what follows is the kind of drama that makes you edge up in your seat. It’s a great scene.
Unfortunately, the entire movie can’t be as good as that scene, and if I have one complaint with the film, it’s that it’s too long. When the action is popping, the story is popping along with it, but when it’s not, the whole thing kind of drags. If this movie was leaner, it would be a lot better. But besides those few moments that crawl, I’d call this a first-rate thriller. Hopefully, it will have its day in the sun on DVD. It deserves it.
The special features on this disc are almost daunting when you look at how many you get. There’s the “Filmmakers’ Commentary,” where we find out a lot of different things, the most interesting being that the original French film, Pour Elle (Anything for Her), on which this movie is based on was less than an hour and a half long…which this film should have been. There’s “Making The Next Three Days,” where we get to see how tireless Paul Haggis is and how everybody loves that he’s both a writer and a director. Even the Rza, who makes an appearance in this film.
“The Men of The Next Three Days” feature has Haggis talking up Liam Neeson, Brian Dennehy, and Russell Crowe. After he’s done fawning over them, Crowe and Dennehy start talking up each other. “True Escapes for Love” is just that, retellings of stories of people who actually did try to break out of prison, and failed miserably, further driving home the point of just how ridiculous (but fun) this movie is. “Cast Moments” is your standard blooper reel, with some of it actually being really funny. And then you have some “Deleted Scenes,” which aren’t worthy of being watched, and “Extended Scenes,” which were also best left on the cutting-room floor. In fact, if these “Extended” and “Deleted” scenes were actually taken out of the special features, I think I’d give this disc an extra half point, as this is truly an example of addition by subtraction. All of the other features definitely feel like they belong here, but the added scenes just seem like they were stuck on the disc to make the back of the box look more appealing. It’s like, lookie here, commentary AND extra scenes. You better pick this shit up! But no, the extra scenes are worthless and really weigh down the rest of the disc. Pass those up, but the other special features are a good time here. Pick it up.