|Diane Kruger & Vincent Lindon|
For the American version, The Next Three Days has been relocated to Pittsburgh and its hero, John Brennan, now played by Russell Crowe, turned into a community college professor, instead of the high school teacher in the original. But for its first half, at least, the U.S. movie generally stays faithful to Pour elle, minus a few tweaks to the story here and there. Some of those, such as having John having a much easier time getting his hands on a gun makes sense, as that action would be much easier to pull off in Pittsburgh than in gun-strict Paris. Some of the others, such as changing the grade level at which John teaches, are less explicable. Without revealing too many details of the plot, most of the small changes display just a hint of moralizing and a touch of dumbing down, by spelling out that which should be apparent to anyone with half a brain. There’s nothing like assuming your potential audience are morons. Fred Cavayé actually worked on The Next Three Days’s screenplay with Paul Haggis, so I’ll credit him with the smart parts of the film, which echo its French predecessor, and blame Haggis for the unnecessary, extraneous segments that have nothing to do with Pour elle.
It’s in the film’s second half that everything falls apart. Just when the plot should shift into high, fast and efficient gear, as it did in Pour elle, when Julien sets a daring plan into motion (I won’t say more than that), The Next Three Days, instead, puts a brake on the proceedings. It does so by unnecessarily stretching out the story, adding all manner of contrivances, chase scenes and extra characters, which not only bogs down the film’s momentum but succeeds in giving it a patina of exaggeration and turns John into MacGyver instead of allowing him to be the everyman he is supposed to be. (Pour elle only had one scene where Julien seemed unrealistically super heroic; The Next Three Days is full of scenes like that.) The American film also ends on an ironic and illogical note that simply didn't need to be inserted into the story.
|Elizabeth Banks & Russell Crowe|
Had Paul Haggis been capable of directing the movie with at least some verve and panache, I think it could have surmounted its weak performances, but The Next Three Days is for the most part a lumbering, somnolent beast of a film. Haggis even botches a key and very tense action scene from Pour elle that is alluded to at the outset of both movies. His film is further hobbled by its generic cinematography, courtesy of Frenchman Stéphane Fontaine – who was so much better photographing Jacques Audiard’s French movies A Prophet and The Beat That My Heart Skipped – and Danny Elfman’s uncharacteristically heavy-handed score. The Moby tracks in the film, “Mistake” and “Be The One” are pretty lousy, too.
The Next Three Days highlights the artistic conundrum at the heart of most Hollywood remakes of foreign-language films. The studios are savvy enough to recognize unique movies when they see them, but once they get their grubby hands on them they either don’t trust the material enough to stay entirely faithful to the plots and storylines, that made the films so clever to begin with, or fail to choose the right filmmakers to adapt the movies to their market. Or both. The end results are neutered, hackneyed movies like The Next Three Days. You’d be much better off, and far more entertained, by renting the French original.