Directed by: McG.
Written by: Adi Hasak & Luc Besson.
Starring: Kevin Costner (Ethan Renner), Amber Heard (Vivi Delay), Hailee Steinfeld (Zoey Renner), Connie Nielsen (Christine Renner), Tómas Lemarquis (The Albino), Richard Sammel (The Wolf ), Marc Andréoni (Mitat Yilmaz), Bruno Ricci (Guido), Jonas Bloquet (Hugh), Eriq Ebouaney (Jules).
Kevin Costner is at his best when he doesn’t seem to be trying too hard. For a while – mainly in the 1990s – he was trying way too hard, and coming out with one horrible movie after another. Yet every time you wanted to write him off, he’d come out with a film like A Perfect World (1993) or Tin Cup (1995) and remind you why he became a movie star in the first place. He has certainly been less busy in the past decade, but for the most part he chosen projects that put his easy charm to good use – his directorial effort Open Range (2003) – one of the best recent Westerns, The Upside of Anger (2004), as a former baseball player with a drinking problem, the ridiculously entertaining Mr. Brooks (2007), the low key comedy Swing Vote (2008) – and even supporting roles in bigger films like Man of Steel and the recent Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Costner doesn’t seem to be trying to get you to like him in these movies – and that’s precisely why you do.
Costner is pretty much the only good thing about 3 Days to Kill – another of producer/writer Luc Besson’s Europe set action movies that tries ridiculously hard to tell an incoherent plot, and mix it with humor. In many ways, 3 Days to Kill resembles the Taken movies that Besson had a hand in, and made Liam Neeson into an unlikely, aging action star. I actually think 3 Days to Kill is better than either of the Taken movies – but then again, I hated both of them, so that’s not saying much. 3 Days to Kill is just as ridiculous as either Taken movie and really a fairly bad movie in its own right. But at least it doesn’t take itself so seriously – and benefits from Costner’s undeniable charm.
Costner plays Ethan Renner, a CIA lifer who in the film’s opening action sequence is in Serbia to arrest a terrorist known as The Albino, who works for another terrorist known as The Wolf. Things don’t go well, but Ethan still looks like he’s going to either arrest or kill The Albino – that is until he is stricken with some sort of debilitating illness and collapses. Waking up in the hospital, he discovers he has brain cancer, and has 3 months to live “maybe 5” his doctor tells him before advising him to get his affairs in order and thanking him on behalf of the CIA for his service.
So Costner heads “home” to Paris – only to find a family of African immigrants squatting in his flat – used mostly for comic effect – which he cannot get rid of, because “squatters have rights in the winter months”. He then calls his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen), and tries to win back her affection – as well as the affection of his now teenage daughter, Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), who he hasn’t seen in 5 years. Amazingly, after just one day, when Nielsen is called away on business, she leaves Ethan in charge. At the same time, he has been contacted by Vivi (Amber Heard) – a CIA operative herself – because she needs his help identifying and eliminating The Wolf. If he does that, she’ll give him an experimental drug that could cure him. It could also kill him though if his heart rate goes up too much. But drinking vodka will help for some reason.
The plot is both ridiculously convoluted and completely arbitrary. The movie doesn’t really care about its two villains – The Albino or The Wolf – until it needs them for the finale which will involve, of course, chases and gunfights – and if they can set those against a rave and techno music, all the better. Basically, the movie is made up of scenes of Ethan torturing lower level thugs employed by the two, and then asking them for their help in parenting Zoey. These are alternated against scenes of Costner trying to parent Zoey – who for the most part seems like a smart kid – that is until she sneaks out to go to a club, is almost assaulted in the bathroom, and has to be rescued and carried out The Bodyguard style by Ethan.
Directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels), 3 Days to Kill is both a needlessly violent action movie, a rather lame comedy, and an even lamer father-daughter bonding movie. Strangely however, it’s the father-daughter stuff that works the best – mainly because even if it’s completely ridiculous, Costner and the talented young Steinheld (from the Coen’s True Grit) are quite good together and sell their scenes together. They shouldn’t work, but they kind of, sort of do – even if the film’s view of teenage girls and sexuality is hopelessly dated and in the few moments where Costner and Steinfeld’s scenes turn almost creepy.
I also have to say I looked forward to each and every scene Amber Heard was in – if for no other reason than to see what ridiculous wig she would don next (she seems to have an endless supply). Her character is so strange, so almost surreal, and seemingly so different from her first scene in the movie (the only time she isn’t with Costner in a scene) – I keep expecting them to reveal something more about her character – like she was a figment of Costner’s cancer ridden brain – especially in a strange scene where she is bathed in red light – but alas, she is seemingly just a crazy, hot femme fatale with an unlimited wig budget supplied by the CIA. I guess there are worse ways to use Heard in a film.
3 Days to Kill never comes close to being a good movie. It comes closer to being a guilty pleasure as the film is so ridiculous you sort of have to admire the film for being this brazenly stupid (the filmmakers have to know the film is stupid. Right?). In the end however, 3 Days to Kill doesn’t really work on any level – it tries to do too much, and as a result anything about the film that works is drowning in the rest of crap that surrounds it.