It seems there are two kinds of Russell Crowe movies: one where he plays a noble but violent action figure, the other in which he is a tubby and traumatised genius. What would happen if these two were combined? Enter Paul Haggis's The Next Three Days.

It begins with a seemingly perfect family unit that gets torn apart when the mother (Elizabeth Banks) is sentenced to life for murder. Her husband (Crowe) refuses to face up to the reality of the situation, tries to break her out, and so starts a down a very dubious path in the quest for justice.

The plot relies on an incredible amount of blind luck, coincidence, and strange character action that keeps nearly derailing into being wholly unbelievable. What really works about this film is Crowe's performance as a teacher turned criminal; he never evolves into a dynamic Clooney-esque hitman, just a desperate novice trying to save his family, who just about bumbles through. Also, we are made constantly aware of what he will be giving up by going down this route, and it is never certain whether the scheme will go ahead. Haggis does a brilliant job as director, and at the end you are both exhausted and satisfied.

The film's only real duff moment is a cameo by Liam Neeson, whose role as an ex-con feels utterly false from the accent to the scar on his face. He really could have gone straight from the set of The A-Team and it is a brief glimpse into what this film could have been with Michael Bay at the helm.

This is a real cracking thriller, which although threatening to fall apart into silliness, through great direction and acting holds itself together.

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