Save me, Maximus!
Life seems perfect for John Brennan (Russell Crowe) until his wife, Laura (Elizabeth Banks), is arrested for a gruesome murder she says she didn’t commit. With the rejection of their final appeal, Lara becomes suicidal and John decides there is only one possible, bearable solution: to break his wife out of prison.
It may seem a bit strange that director Paul Haggis would return to the director’s chair after two character-driven flicks like Crash and In the Valley of Elah, to do something very action-oriented in a way that would remind me a bit of the Bourne movies. Total change-of pace if you ask me, but a pretty intriguing one, none the less. However, this is also the guy who wrote Casino Royale and I think he should have kept it that way and try not to stretch out his action skills anymore teaming up with this dude, because he said he was an “Oscar-winner”.
What I liked about Haggis’ direction here is that he does have a good combination of character-driven drama and a suspense-thriller for a combination that sort of evens each-side out. We first start this flick off by focusing on Crowe, how he’s struggling with being a single father, having a wife put in jail wrongly, and it basically just sets up a lot of sadness for his character and the situation he so sadly found himself so involved with. But underneath all of that, there’s also a very interesting prison-escape drama that shows how Crowe goes around, checking for all of the clues on how to get his wife out successfully without any problems whatsoever, and it’s so interesting and well-done, that it actually made you wonder just how the hell this guy was going to pull it all off in the end, if at all. Prison-escape movies are always fun to watch, but it was really cool to see that aspect, used on the outside, from a guy who’s trying to break somebody out, and not really being able to tell how smoothly everything will go. Definitely a good combo for Haggis, but sadly, it all ends up losing it’s way about half-way through. Oh well, at least it was intruiging for the longest-time.
Mainly the problem with this flick is that it can be very hard to buy at times, especially the main bond between Crowe and Banks. As soon as we step into the movie, we see Banks and Crowe at dinner together, then in no less than 5 minutes later she gets hauled out by cops and that’s pretty much all of the love we get see come from them. That’s right, only 5 minutes of them actually being loving and happy together and we’re supposed to buy the fact that Crowe would go the ends of the Earth to save his wife from prison. Who knows, maybe they had one of the most beautiful marriages that any person has ever seen, but with the very limited-amount of time they have together on-screen, I found it very hard to actually believe Crowe would do what he ends up trying to do for her.
However, that’s not the only part of this movie I didn’t buy. The whole film revolves around Crowe and whether or not he can pull off such a plan as the one he has mapped out on his wall (so original) but I couldn’t really believe much of that either. The film does show him doing certain things to gain pieces of information that ultimately help him out with this plan and gaining more information, but it was never fully-developed to the point of where I understood how he could make it all happen to begin with and even worse, only showed-up every once and awhile. In fact, the whole escape itself by the end was really just based on coincidences that Crowe just so happened to find himself running into by sure luck. Crowe’s character had so much time to think everything through and to get everything right, but by the end, everything just happens in a very messy way and like almost every obstacle he got through was just another piece of perfect-timing, that was just a bit too perfect for my taste, really.
Now I say all of this crap but I did have a certain bit of fun with the very fast-pace this film was going through. As implausible and coincidental things may get for this plot, Haggis kicked up the volume and the speed of this movie and kept it going perfectly where I actually felt like I was on the edge of my seat for a good time. That’s why I can’t go too far into how much this film didn’t make sense to me, because I like prison-escape movies and seeing the sensitive-edge Haggis brought to it, kept me interested. However, a lot of that is lost on some very obvious twists this film goes through.
Russell Crowe is one of the best-working actors today and can make almost any character he plays, work. His performance as John Brennan may be the only exception to that statement. My problem I had with this character wasn’t necessarily Crowe’s performance itself, but it was more or less the essence and nature of the character he was playing here. Brennan is such a meek, awkward, and shy dude that it really seemed “out of his element” and unbelievable whenever he would just decide to g0 around and start doing crazy shit just, in order to help his wife escape from jail. I can understand what a man does and thinks when he’s pushed to the edge, but I never saw that for Crowe and that’s a surprise because this is a guy who’s known for beating the shit out of people in many other films as well as real-life (telephone-throwing joke right there). This performance really surprised me and I think with other actors it would have worked, but when you get a tough-ass like Crowe, ehhh not so much.
One performance that really took me by surprise was Elizabeth Banks as his wife. Banks is always one of those very cute, very funny, and very sexy ladies that pop-up in these raunchy-comedies, but she shows she has a lot of dramatic depth here and makes her character seem a lot more believable than Crowe. Hopefully she continues to get more and more dramatic roles that fit her, and no, I do not mean Man on a Ledge. Liam Neeson is also here as a former prison escapee that helps out Crowe and is easily one of the best and most memorable parts of this flick even though it only lasts for 4 minutes. Oh, and Olivia Wilde is here as the only model, single mom in Pittsburgh. Wilde is a random character to have for this movie and what made it even worse and just added to the implausibility of this movie, was the fact that Olivia Wilde, was playing a single-mom! What the hell! If this is what single moms look like in Pittsburgh, get me my 2005 Scion right now! I’ll be there soon, ladies! Just you wait.
Consensus: The Next Three Days starts off pretty-strong with a great combination action, mystery, suspense and character-drama, but the script really starts to lose itself about half-way through with all of its implausibilities, strange coincidences, and unbelievable character relations, especially the ones between Crowe and Banks, who was supposed to be the core-relationship for us to really connect to this movie and actually give a damn.
Snow storms just make everything worse.
During a snowy New Year’s Eve, a most-wanted mobster, Nicholas Zambrano (Laurence Fishburne), is temporarily incarcerated at the doomed Precinct 13. As the sun sets and a long night begins, a motley crew of policemen and prisoners, reluctantly headed by Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), must band together to fight off a rogue gang that wants to extract Zambrano at any cost.
This is a loose remake of a film that was done by John Carpenter and even though they aren’t considered the same thang, I think I’ve seen enough already. Although, I do have to say that John Carpenter is a pretty solid director in his own right.
Director Jean-François Richet doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the usual slam-bang, action thrillers we’re so used to seeing but damn does he do a great job with it! Richet brings in a whole bunch of crazy weapons here all ranging from the likes of hand-guns, sniper rifles, lazer sightings, silencers, a samurai sword and basically anything that can be used as a weapon in one way or another. It all shows up here in this flick and used to great effect because the action here is what really kept this story going. Even when it seems like the story is about to fall into its softer/slower side, it picks itself right back up from where it started and gives us plenty more deaths and action to behold. It’s not like Richet tries to go for anything new here, it’s more of like that he knows how to film action and make it work.
Another element to this film that made it all the more enjoyable was that the story does go through some twists and turns here and there that are pretty funny and kept me guessing. Now I’m not saying the whole film is unpredictable but what I will say that there are a lot of times that the film does something out of the ordinary like kill of a main character or throw in a couple of “who is the bad guy?” scenes here and there, which all kept me watching. Once again, nothing that is terribly original or new, just entertaining to watch.
The problems that I had with this film are all pretty obvious. With this type of material, you basically know that it’s all going to play out in the same way that all of these other films have been doing for the past 30 years, actually dating back to Carpenter’s original. The good guy has a dilemma, the bad guy has a connection with him, they both realize who they are through a death-defying situation they get thrown in to, and yadda yadda yadda this and yadda yadda yadda that. It’s basically the same old shit that we have seen done 100,000 times before and it’s no different here, except for maybe a couple of cool little twists and turns along the way. But those cool twists and turns can only go on so long.
Even though the plot was fun and entertaining, there were plenty of plot-h0les that still seemed to bother me. One memorable problem was the realization of the underground tunnel beneath the compound. I mean honestly, you would think that something as life-saving and crucial to this predicament as an underground tunnel would be the first thing 0n somebody’s mind and brought up within the first 10 minutes that this attack was going on. But for some very odd reason, it just so happened to slip this dude’s mind. Then again, it wouldn’t have served the plot if they did do that in the first place so I guess it all makes sense in the end.
A lot of the credit has to go to this cast that is actually pretty good with their roles by adding a lot more humanity to them and making them characters that we care for and want to see live after all of this havoc is over and done with. Ethan Hawke did a nice job as the burned-out cop and plays snarky so well that it’s almost hard to take him in as anything else. Also, it’s pretty fun to think of this character as his character from Training Day but this time, only 4 years down the road and fed with all of this shit. May sound lame but hey, I can have a little bit of fun while watching these movies. Laurence Fishburne also adds a real deep sense of coolness to his evil gangster, Bishop. It’s not like this is a stand-out performance from Fishburne but I definitely think its a lot better than half of the shit we’ve been seeing him do lately. However, I’m not talking about Contagion considering he was probably the best out of that whole cast.
Consensus: There’s no re-inventing of the action wheel here or any new surprises to be seen, but what Assault on Precinct 13 does bring is a lot of blood, action, gun shots, violence, and some fun twists in order to have a good time.