Review: The Next Three Days (12A)**

A NEEDLESS US remake of the Gallic thriller Pour Elle by Fred Cavayé, The Next Three Days is slower, slimmer and packed with all the requisite car crashery and noisy gunplay that one expects from anorexic American re-boots of chunky Continental fare.

Russell Crowe takes the role originally played by Vincent Lindon and Elizabeth Banks replaces Diane Kruger in this tale of a suburban teacher who plans to spring his wife, jailed for murder, from a maximum security prison.

Of course, John Brennan (Crowe) doesn't believe wife Lara is remotely guilty. The fly in the ointment is that the authorities do. With zero hope of release, John begins putting together a plan to get her out.

In the hands of double Oscar-winner Paul (Crash) Haggis (who really should know better) The Next Three Days emerges as a hybrid of The Fugitive and any number of vigilante flicks in which an ordinary chap is driven to extreme measures. Crowe blunders through a series of extraordinary adventures that should hasten his demise, yet he always lives to blunder another day.

He goes looking for fake passports, takes a beating and is mugged. He makes a cack-handed attempt to start a prison riot, but is caught. The film's most outrageous moment has John conveniently robbing and shooting a drug dealer and torching his meth lab. He ain't like any teacher I ever knew...

Haggis has transformed an eye-catching and compelling consideration on marriage, murder and incarceration into a clarion call for any random John Q. This movie is a nonsense. No decent people are hurt, just bad guys.

Haggis keeps teasing his audience with a did-she-or-didn't-she subplot involving the missus.

At one point she even confesses but it's done so heavy-handedly that we know she's only trying to drive him away.

The film's high point is a cameo by Liam Neeson as an ex-con turned writer who gives Crowe a few pointers on the mission to come. He has all the answers. Shame the film doesn't ask the right questions.