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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Next Three Days

March 6th, 2011

The Next Three Days - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack

The Next Three Days was arguably the biggest box office disappointment from last November. Not many were expecting it to be a huge hit, as the competition was intense, but most were expecting more than $21 million. With an Oscar winning writer / director and an Oscar winning lead, was it a case of a good movie being unfairly passed over by moviegoers? Or was it fated to struggle?

The Movie

Russel Crowe and Elizabeth Banks star as a married couple, John and Lara. Lara gets into a shouting match with her boss and she's arrested for the murder of said boss the next day. Flash forward three years. Lara's been convicted and the last of her appeals have been exhausted. Unwilling to accept a 20 year prision sentence, she attempts suicide. That's when John decides he's got to break her out of prison.

From here we get a pretty standard prison break movie, with the main twist being the person doing the breaking is on the outside. Liam Neeson shows up for a scene as a man who had previously escaped from prison seven times. He passes along his knowledge, partially in voiceover mode, as we see John start putting his plan together. Of course, when he finds an opportunity to put his plan into action, it quickly falls apart and he has to start improvising. (That's Prison Break 101, you are going to have to improvise.)

In the audio commentary track, Paul Haggis mentions that the first cut of the film was over three hours long. The final cut here is an hour shorter, but it could have used another 30 minutes of trims. It takes a long time to get to the chase scenes we know are coming, and a few of the detours along the way are quite unnecessary. We understand that John is fighting for his wife, so to spend a lot of time building up that emotional weight just slows things down, as does listening to him teach his college students about Don Quixote. These pacing issues have negative consequences when it comes to the late actions scenes. As it happens in all movies like this, the plan falls apart and there are several close calls and a few parts that are just plain luck. Better pacing and and a more energetic tone would have helped with suspension of disbelief here. By setting a far more serious, far more deliberate tone, we can't get into the actions scenes, which could have been a really fun ride.

It's not a bad movie, but it's not exactly a good one either. Solidly mediocre.

The Extras

Extras start with an audio commentary with writer / director Paul Haggis, producer Michael Nozik, and editor Jo Francis. There's a standard making of featurette here, another featurette on the cast, and a final featurette on prison breaks motivated by love. (Given the people profiled, it seems out of place here.) Cast Moments is just over two minutes of outtakes and finally there's more than a dozen deleted and extended scenes.

There are no additional extras on the Blu-ray, nor was I blown away by its technical presentation. There's nothing wrong with the video or the audio, although some of the darker scenes do lack any real visual flair. The audio is better, with good use of the surround sound speakers, plenty of base, etc. It's also $8 more than the DVD; it does come with the DVD, but that's still a bit more than I'd be willing to pay.

The Verdict

Sometimes Rotten Tomatoes gets it perfect. The Next Three Days has exactly 50% positive reviews (at least it does as I'm writing this), exactly between being a success and being a failure. Call it a rental. If you are interested in buying, the DVD and the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack are about the same value.

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