Today’s meaningless coincidence: 3 Days of the Crowe

Things like this strike me, and then I forget them and move on, but it occurs to me that maybe if I start writing about them, perhaps some pattern will emerge that explains the way the universe works.

Or not.

Bottom line, meaningless coincidences interest me whether they do you or not, and here’s today’s. Or rather, today’s first…

Last night, I wasn’t quite ready to go to bed when I should have, and went rifling through my DVDs looking for something I could watch, but stop watching at any time. Something I hadn’t seen in awhile. Something that wouldn’t be too loud, since others had gone to bed I suppose I looked at and rejected two or three dozen titles before I hit on “Three Days of the Condor.” I don’t know what made me pick that — maybe it was that I had watched and enjoyed (except for that last episode) the first season of “Rubicon.”

Anyway, “Condor” is always enjoyable, even though it’s silly. Most paranoid, black-helicopter gummint conspiracy movies ARE silly. But this one is very earnest, which suits Robert Redford. As for the silliness: “Yeah, right — entire secret offices in New York get wiped out by guys with submachine guns SO often that the CIA has a set of procedures including a rapid-response team of janitors in an undercover van ready to run to the scene and mop up, like Batman rushing out from the Batcave.” Think about it, people. (The way something similar was handled on “Rubicon” was much more believable, much more improvised on a human scale.)

But it works because it’s fun to say, “Sure, nothing like this really happens, but it’s interesting to see how a human being might react if it DID happen.” As in, say, “The Bourne Identity” — ridiculous premise, fascinating character and action.

Anyway, to remind you of the plot: A guy who reads books for the CIA slips out to get lunch for the gang one day, and when he comes back with the takeout all his co-workers are dead. He goes on the lam, suspicious of his own agency, until he can figure out what’s going on. Along the way he reveals resourcefulness and tradecraft that you wouldn’t expect in a professional book reader.

I watched it through, and a little past, one of my favorite scenes: Redford finds himself trapped on an elevator with the head assassin, the masterfully creepy Max Von Sydow, and they are both held hostage by a mundane hassle — some punk teenagers hit all the buttons on the elevator before getting off. Redford and the assassin look at each other, and Max smiles grimly and says, “Kids.” Like, whaddya gonna do? Then the tension builds with each unnecessary opening and closing of the elevator door, and Redford and Max and you and I all know, without a word being said, that Max is going to kill Redford as soon as they get outside — unless Redford can think of something.

Nicely done.

Eventually, I went to bed.

Then this morning, the very first e-mail I open is from Roger Ebert, and one of the new reviews is this movie I had never heard of:

The Next Three Days

The transformation of a schlepp

Russell Crowe slumps comfortably into the role of a junior college teacher in “The Next Three Days,” and then morphs into an unlikely man of action determined to spring his wife from jail. The film might have been more convincing if he’d remained the schleppy English teacher throughout. Once glimmers of “Gladiator” begin to reveal themselves, a certain credibility is lost. The movie is a competent thriller, but maybe could have been more.

Maybe you don’t, but I found the coincidence striking. “Three Days.” Bookish man forced by circumstances to become surprising action hero. Condor/Crowe. Last movie I thought about last night, first item brought to my attention this morning…

Oh, never mind.