Review in a Hurry: When his wife is suddenly arrested and convicted of murder, teacher John Brennan (Russell Crowe) starts planning ways to break her out of jail. So he plans...and plans...and plans some more. Only close to the movie's end does he actually start putting events in motion, and by then you may have given up on a story that rarely gets straight to the point.
The Bigger Picture: The main hook of The Next Three Days (remade from the French film Anything For Her, or Pour Elle, which didn't get much play stateside) is the idea of a jailbreak as planned by a regular guy who's a total novice at such things. He's inspired to action by a brief meeting with an ex-jailbird named Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson, boldly and foolishly attempting a Brooklyn accent), and ploughs ahead despite the fact that (a) wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) refuses to profess her innocence; and (b) their son doesn't seem to care about his mom much.
There could have been ample room for satire here, but writer-director Paul Haggis (Crash) wouldn't know a cinematic sense of humor if it rammed his car on the freeway. He does understand irony, somewhat, especially where skin color is involved—unsurprisingly, John's attempts at making criminal contacts involve stereotypes about criminality and race being reversed.
About an hour and a half in, when what had been mostly a low-volume talker finally becomes a heist adventure, Haggis shows a strong sense of direction, getting us tense about events onscreen even if we don't particularly care about the specific protagonists. He can't leave well enough alone, though, refusing to end the film until all hints of vagueness that made the story interesting are indubitably (and boringly) resolved.
Kinda cool that he sets the movie in Pittsburgh, though. Makes for a nice change of onscreen urban scenery.
The 180—a Second Opinion: It's good to see Brian Dennehy as Crowe's tough-nut dad. It's always good to see Dennehy in anything. We know he's been more of a TV guy lately, but more features could use his presence.