After walking a cold block from our parking garage to the Ziegfeld Theater, my daughter, Mary Beth, and I entered and found our two tickets to the film and the after party at the “Will Call” table. We settled comfortably in the great seats provided by the event coordinator Danielle and Keith Rogers, and waited for the film to begin.
Immediately intriguing is the opening scene. Russell, driving a car, keeps looking to his right and down. This is not explained at that moment, but becomes clear later in the movie.
From views of a happy family enjoying dinner out and breakfast together, we move quickly and violently to a house invasion by the police. Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks – so good) is quickly accused of murder, arrested and hauled away, leaving John (Russell) shouting that they must stop, and their dear 3 year old son sitting in his chair crying over and over again – “Mommy, Mommy.” It is a heartbreaking scene.
From then on, we follow a man determined to free his wife at any cost. After he learns that an appeal will take forever to go through the courts, (His attorney is played nicely by Daniel Stern), he sits at his computer, Googles “getting out of prison” and begins his strange and gripping story.
Through his internet search, he finds and then meets an ex-con, Damon, played wonderfully by Liam Neeson, who has written a successful book about breaking out of prison. Damon counsels him on all he must do to make his plan a success. “Key” is one of the words Neeson uses, and “key” in reality appears later in a pivotal jail scene. Damon also tells him he will need good passports, new IDs and lots of money. Brennan, a Community College teacher, is not wealthy, nor are his brother and parents (Played by Michael Buie, Brian Dennehy (Great, as usual), and Helen Carey (who brings warmth and love to her role) – so he must look for other ways to get the cash he needs.
He gets a gun – a fateful decision – and then moves, through RZA, as Mouss, a drug dealer, into the world of easy drug money. There is a very violent scene that gives him the needed cash, but that scene also changes Brennan forever, as the title of the original French version of the movie – Anything For Her (Pour Elle) – implies.
Brennan’s plotting and planning are laid out for us through the rest of the movie. Some scenes stand out as three years pass on screen – getting Lara out of prison, his obsession with the time needed for each step – thrown off when Mrs. Brennan is moved to another prison – getting their son Luke, played excellently by Ty Simpkins, away from the Pittsburgh Zoo where he was attending a birthday party for Olivia Wilde's (Nicole) daughter, and the intricate and perfectly filmed (by cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine) car chase and escape route on their way, hopefully, to freedom.
Look for a button, a medical supply truck, and some handwriting on Brennan’s wrist – all important to the plot. Other cast members I loved in their roles, Jason Beghe at Detective Quinn (My daughter had a chance to chat with him for a bit. His pals from Californication, including Evan Handler, came in support), Lennie James as Lt. Nabulsi, And the witty woman detective who worked along with Quinn.
Highly recommended - IMO - RC's best role since Cinderella Man (Personal Note: The movie was filmed in Pittsburgh, city of my birth. I have a page on the city here)************************************************
On to the after party.
After waiting in the bitter wind outside the Oak Room for 20 minutes or so, Mary Beth and I and the rest of the shivering group were allowed inside. It was crowded chaos! Everyone there was a foot taller than I am, so I felt like one of the little people in Gullivers Travels among the giants. The models were particularly tall, and everyone was toned and perfect – men and women. All wanted to gravitate to Russell's alcove.
We spotted Paul Haggis, the film's director, Olivia Wilde, Gerard Butler, Adrian Brody, Viola Davis, Rainn Wilson (The Office), Director Doug Lyman and Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson among the celebs -- and tons of film executives – the key ones from Lionsgate. Most of the excellent cast of the film were there as well.
Russell was tucked away in an alcove, well protected by Lionsgate staff, Keith, his PA extraordinaire, Ray DiPetro and Terry. I was able to share a few words with him, but I think he was eager to get out of there and breathe and get some rest. We said goodbye and headed back out to our car and New Jersey.