The fall of 2010 has most definitely been a rough patch for the SFC. The pickins these last few months have been unbelievably slim. The Town got the season started and I thought things were looking up. I was wrong. Here I am three boring, irrelevant movies later looking toward a December in which I’m likely to see, and be disappointed by, two Disney movies. This is most definitely a drought.
Part of it is my own fault. My decision-making has been suspect at best. I saw The Next Three Days without knowing anything about it other than it starred Russell Crowe and was directed by Paul Haggis. I was like (stoney voice) “Wait, Haggis is a good director, right? And didn’t I used to think Russel Crowe was cool in Gladiator like 10 years ago? OK, whatever, I’ll see it.” Misplaced trust similar to my Hereafter selection. I’ve been looking for hidden gems in the local arthouses too, but to no avail. Nothing has attracted me. Things be slow. Or maybe I’m just being lazy. A stoney film critic isn’t necessarily a hard-working film critic. I’ll just continue looking forward to The Hobbit and Dune. Maybe one of those will come out in the next three years.
My friend Vampyre Bormz once suggested a technique in which I could watch a bad movie while at the movies. That is, go see a movie, bring in my computer, and watch another movie. Two at once. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to pull that off, but this is the next best thing. Writing my review of The Next Three Days while watching Edge Of Darkness*. Congratulations, consumer. You just stumbled upon two reviews for the price of one.
*I actually wanted to review Edge of Darkness when it came out. I even asked a girl I was quasi-seeing at the time to go with me. She said no. This was embarrassing at first, but then she ended up being even crazier than I am. We don’t talk anymore.
Both of these movies are essentially about the same thing. The person a man loves most is taken away, his mourning process magically converts him into an unstoppable badass. In Edge of Darkness, Mel Gibson’s daughter is murdered. In The Next Three Days, Russell Crowe’s wife is wrongly convicted of murder and goes to jail for life. Different situations, sure. Same result. Normal guy uses his grief to become an action hero. Sometimes the more things change, the more they blahblahblahfuckfart.
Both films also have at their foundation that tired, overused “This man loveth his family like us mere mortals can’t possibly comprehend” thing. I hate that shit. Example: when Gibson identifies his daughter’s body at the coroner he screams at them to leave her alone when they try to pull the sheet back over her face. Then he kisses her forehead, demands scissors, and cuts off a lock of her hair, which he keeps with him throughout the movie.
Crowe’s unbounded love is on display in an array of slightly-too-passionate kisses within the first 10 minutes of the movie. Turns out he and his wife are really in love. There’s banter, a kitchen make out session, a lively couples dinner. Did I mention they also love their son? He and his wife (Elizabeth Banks, whose face I really like) are THE PERFECT MARRIED COUPLE. Even after she goes to jail on convincing evidence and they’ve exhausted their appeals, he never loses hope. He will find a way to get her out. It is non-negotiable.
Bad movies tend to lean really heavily on the “greatest love ever known” angle. It’s a lame, cheesy tactic. I used to have a mild disdain for it, but within the past few years have moved on to total disgust. Essentially what these movies are doing is using a tragedy to create a character. His grief is heroic, and that’s all there is to him. I find this distasteful, and I think you can see its reflection in society when people line up to appear grief-stricken after any tragic death. Verdict: Wack.
Edge of Darkness is obviously the worse movie of the two. It features Mel Gibson doing an absolutely terrible Boston accent. The production values are pretty bad, occasionally really bad. There’s a shot of him washing his daughter’s blood off his hands, and then he watches it go down the sink. The camera does a close-up of the sink for like 10 seconds. It looks like it was shot by the guy from American Movie.
Paul Haggis was at least able to spare me nonsense like that. There were no truly embarrassing moments in The Next Three Days. I guess you could even call it a competent effort. But if I’m gonna sit in a theater for over two hours I want the experience to move me somehow. I am fairly easily moved. This movie never came close.
There was some legitimate suspense, and I guess I can award points for that. If you like capers in general you might enjoy the process of the jailbreak. I sort of did. There’s a pretty funny Liam Neeson scene in there, which was a nice, if sad, bonus. Neeson plays a guy who has broken out of jail a bunch of times. I think you can take it from there. There’s also a Daniel Stern cameo. Any Stern fans out there? I’m undecided. He always plays a lovable guy, but I have a sneaking suspicion he’s a pervert in real life.
Crowe doesn’t play the average man very well. He’s supposed to be a community college professor, and I never quite bought that. It seemed obvious he was going to become an ass kicker at some point. That reputation is bound to follow a guy who chose to be in a movie titled “Master and Commander.”
Update: We’ve now reached the point in Edge of Darkness where Gibson is killing people. I haven’t been following the plot very well, but it appears to be nothing more than cliches. Grief turned into rage, sympathetic cop with whom Gibson goes way back, government cover-up, emptying his daughter’s urn into the ocean, mysterious stranger with all the answers, flashbacks to daughter’s childhood, and finally, murderous revenge. This movie has it all! SPOILER ALERT!!!! It ends with Gibson dying, seeing his daughter’s “ghost”, or “spirit” or what have you, and walking off with his arm around her. He dies, but they can be together again. Presumably in heaven!
This was an interesting experiment. I’d intended to write a negative review of The Next Three Days, but watching Gibson’s latest out of touch buffoonery has made me see things in a new light. This is a time for giving thanks, after all, so I’ll give thanks that Paul Haggis and Russell Crowe’s worst work is still pretty average overall. This movie really could’ve been a lot worse. It featured decent (if uninspiring) performances from the male and female leads, a couple of funny cameos and a child actor who didn’t annoy the piss out of me. I actually was rooting for the family and following the plot, so thats something. My biggest complaint is that things moved pretty slow. Not a good trait for what essentially turns out to be a jailbreak flick.
The Next Three Days isn’t bad enough to make fun of or good enough to want to see again. It will slip through the cracks and be forgotten. Bring on Season of the Witch.