Each year, the Chicago International Film Festival helps close out the Fest with a Surprise! Film Screening. Past years included The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and RocknRolla. It’s definitely become a Festival favorite with lots of buzz leading up to the event, as moviegoers have no idea what is about to come on screen.

This year’s feature was a major letdown. And the audience sure let you know as no one cheered and most just awkwardly laughed.

The Next Three Days has all kinds of promise in its cast (mainly Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, and Liam Neeson) and its director (Paul Haggis of Crash fame). The film, adapted from the 2008 French film Anything for Her [Pour Elle], which starred Diane Kruger and Vincent Lindon, lacks character development, any type of realistic situations and has a very misleading trailer.

To start, Laura Brennan (Banks) is a suburban mom who speaks her mind and stands up for herself, no matter who she’s up against. After she is the last to leave what will eventually become the scene of a murder, police arrest her and she winds up rotting in jail with a life sentence. Meanwhile, her husband John (Crowe) continues year after year to fight with appeals, which they continue to lose. Laura begins to lose her mind more and more with every loss, lighting a fire under John to figure out how to get her out of prison.

So John meets with Damon (Neeson), a famed prison escape artist. I really thought this character was going to have more time in this movie, but he literally gets about three minutes (what you see in the trailer is pretty much what you get).

John clearly watched a ton of Ocean’s movies and Sneakers as his heist to get Laura out of prison is extremely reminiscent of the tactics used in those films. The action scenes are too over the top to evoke any realistic feelings and empathy, making you quite tired of the movie well before it ends.

The ending does offer a twist, one I most definitely did not see coming. Then again, maybe I would have seen it had I been engaged throughout the film the whole time.

Still, the film will make you wary of what you can learn on YouTube videos, and yes, you see the Gladiator and Robin Hood fight for the future of his wife and child, which is kind of heartstrings-worthy. His devotion to Laura is apparent and never once falters.

It’s a bit more than disheartening to see Haggis deliver such a characterless film. As his past writing alludes, he’s usually pretty developed (read Million Dollar Baby). Also, the original film was well received and released just a few years ago. Diane Kruger played the Laura Brennan character, begging the question why she wasn’t cast in this version, seeing as she’s become a Hollywood favorite.

Hanna Soltys is a green tea drinker and film critic living in Chicago.

Comments (5)

On November 6, 2010 at 9:36 AM, Janus wrote...

Why is the trailer misleading?

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On November 11, 2010 at 9:59 PM, Bob wrote...

Eh, don’t listen to this guy. It is a FANTASTIC movie. Excellent, thrilling, and unpredictable. I think this ‘critic’ has seen too many movies and has muddled his mind on what is a good movie.

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On January 10, 2011 at 12:37 PM, Next3Dayz4Lyfe wrote...

Bob - I couldn’t agree with you anymore. This is the greatest movie I have ever seen. If it isn’t up for the best picture come February I will be extremely upset. I have never seen a more realistic movie before. I could easily pull of this heist and so could this author of this review if her mind wasn’t so muddled. Two thumbs up. 5/5.

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On November 19, 2010 at 4:36 PM, Ken Carpenter wrote...

You didn’t rip it hard enough! It’s easily the worst film of 2010 — which is hard to do, since “Eat, Pray, Love” came out this year!

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On January 10, 2011 at 12:47 PM, Next3Dayz4Lyfe wrote...

Bob - I couldn’t agree with you anymore. This is the greatest movie I have ever seen. If it isn’t up for the best picture come February I will be extremely upset. I have never seen a more realistic movie before. I could easily pull of this heist and so could this author of this review if her mind wasn’t so muddled. Two thumbs up. 5/5.

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