November 19, 2010 at 1:00 am

Review: 'Next Three Days' slow to heat up

Ty Simpkins and Elizabeth Banks in “The Next Three Days.” (Phil Caruso)

Suspenseful if not wholly believable, the main problem with "The Next Three Days" is it lasts about a half day too long.

Writer-director Paul Haggis ("Crash") is obviously trying to deliver a thriller here, but the film spends way too much time building and too little thrilling. Efficient thrillers thrive on tightness; "Three Days" plays things kind of loose.

Not that the film is ever outright boring; it just takes a while to grab you by the throat.

On the other hand, it sure gets to the problem quickly. John (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Elizabeth Banks) Brennan are getting ready for an average day at work. We've seen them the night before, out with relatives, the fiery Lara complaining about a fight she had with her boss.

Then — Bam! — police charge into their house and arrest Lara for the murder of her boss. The next thing you know it's three years later and Lara's just lost an appeal. She's going to spend her life in prison.

Haggis then takes the story back, covering the intervening years. But where he's really heading is to the point where Lara is going to be transferred from county jail to state prison. She's given a three day notice.

So John has three days to break her out. Even though he doesn't know if she wants to be broken out. And even though he doesn't really know if she did indeed commit the murder.

It's the average-guy-pulls-off-master-crime fantasy, although Haggis turns up the juice a bit with a bit of armed robbery as well. And when things get rolling, they roll well, with Banks particularly convincing and confused.

If only the film didn't idle so long before hitting the gas.

tlong@detnews.com

(313) 222-8879

Russell Crowe plays an average guy planning a master crime.