Who's In It: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks
The Basics: Sensitive husband Russell Crowe is the kind of community college English professor who wears glasses and tries to inspire his students think creatively about Cervantes. But then he embarks on his own impossible dream of busting his prisoner wife Elizabeth Banks out of the joint. ("She didn't kill that woman," he blurts out to a random mommy on the playground as he single-dads it with his kid. Or DID she?). Problem is that his windmill of choice is a maximum security penitentiary with post-9/11 strategies in place to apprehend anyone who does anything bad anywhere. And because this is fiction and not real life he can't just throw phones at people's heads to get what he wants. He's going to need a plan.
What's The Deal: Your ability to enjoy this movie will be dependent on your capacity for pretending that any gentle disposition-having school teachers you've ever met could be capable of transforming themselves into criminal masterminds who outwit teams of detectives, trick their way in and out of prisons, drive like stunt men, and learning-curve their way from "Show me where to put the bullets" to the mowing down of scuzzy crystal-meth dealers like a Navy Seal sniper. Can you buy all that? Then you'll have a totally good time watching this goofy nonsense thriller.
Unusual Message It Will Send To Novice Criminals: Crowe's character learns half his crime technique from watching YouTube videos of people making bump keys to unlock any door and breaking into cars. If this movie finds a big audience it's going to turn into one of those "I decided to lie down in the middle of the street because I saw Omar Epps do it in The Program" situations. Public defenders, you've been warned.
Blink And You'll Miss: Liam Neeson as a hard-boiled ex-con who wrote a book about his own numerous prison breaks. Also, and more unusual, Trudie Styler in a really brief scene as a doctor. She's more known as a producer than an actor and even more known as Sting's wife. So if, like me, you already know what she looks like it's a weird take-you-out-of-the-movie distraction moment, one where all you can do is sit there and think, "Hey, that's Mrs. Sting. Why is this happening?"
Biggest Problem: Unlike last year's insane Gerard Butler movie Law Abiding Citizen, the one where he goes on a justice-establishing retaliatory murder rampage using increasingly crazy, ultra-violent means, this movie is from fancy Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis. In other words, you're supposed to take it all as seriously as he does. You may find that challenging.