Day By Day

Monday, November 22, 2010

Watching Russell Crowe

We went to see "The Next Three Days". Not many people in the theatre -- but "Harry Potter" next door was packed, mostly with families. "Days" attracted only old couples like us. Makes you wonder just what the marketing strategy for this film was.

There is a lot of talent on display in "Days", but to little effect. The narrative, copied from a 2008 French film, is a by the numbers heist flick with the difference that the treasure being liberated is Russell Crowe's wife. We have the setup, the planning, the usual complications, numerous cameos by established stars, and a nail-biting, coincidence laden, escape sequence. Nothing particularly interesting there. The direction, by Paul Haggis, is conventional and competent, no more, no less. Not very interesting either. So, why did I enjoy it so much?

Well, there was the setting. I grew up near Pittsburgh and it was fun to spot landmarks and recognize neighborhoods and to note what has changed over time. And there is a certain enjoyment in just sitting back and letting a conventional story wash over you. No matter how implausible the situations, coincidences and tension points, you know where you are going and pretty much how you will get there and there is some comfort in that. That's why so many people are willing to sit through genre flicks, being led through the same tropes time and again.

That brings us to the acting, and here we see a lot talent on display. Russell Crowe repeats his suffering everyman/unstoppable hero roles to good effect. Elizabeth Banks transitions from idealized housewife and mother to hardened, defeated, suicidal inmate, to action sidekick. Familiar stars Olivia Wilde, Brian Dennehy, Liam Neeson, and Daniel Stern, are all quite good in what are essentially cameo roles. The other secondary roles are all competently played. There really are no weak performances. But, with one exception, there are no standout ones either, and that is the fault of the writing and directing which do not allow the actors, other than Crowe, much scope to shine. I was most impressed by Liam Neeson's short bit as an expert on prison escapes. Watching him and Crowe together was a treat.

So, all in all, was it worth it? I would say "yes". Go see it if there is nothing better on tap. The trouble is, this week there is an awful lot of decent competition out there so the grosses are bound to be disappointing.

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